Monday, July 18, 2011

Farewell Bend: A Place to Rest

When I read about the grinding hardships the pioneers endured, I marvel that the American West was settled at all. There are still plenty of wild, open spaces in eastern Oregon–it’s not hard to imagine their arduous journey across this arid country.

In 1843, 1,000 people left Missouri to travel to Oregon, to the “Garden of the World.” During the next two decades, 50,000 more would follow the Oregon Trail, 2,000 miles of what in 1848 emigrant Riley Root called “Landscape without soil.” In many places, the land produced barely enough to sustain the teams, and the fragile landscape eroded even more as the numbers of emigrants increased.

The little water they encountered was often tainted and caused sickness among people and animals. The weary travelers often had to make a choice whether to press on and lose oxen teams to fatigue or to give them rest and have them die of thirst.

By the time the travelers reached the Snake River, they found relief in clean water and fish, but also hardships in crossings, where drownings were not uncommon. After following the Snake River for 330 miles, the pioneers rested above a bend in the river, at a place they called “Farewell Bend” where they found respite to fortify them for the travel inland to Oregon City.

Today Farewell Bend State Recreation Area, a state park in Baker County, is still a lovely respite, a place to camp and enjoy the refreshing coolness of the Snake River. An Oregon Trail exhibit commemorates the site where pioneers rested and viewed the river for one last time before continuing westward.

Wagon ruts can still be seen north of the park. A small iron cross, visible from U.S. 30, marks the location where Snake River Shoshone Indians battled with pioneer travelers in 1860. Restored covered wagons rest at the park entrance and next to the Oregon Trail kiosk.

Farewell Bend: A place to remember, a place to reflect, a place to rest.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

What a story those pioneers imprinted for us! And Farewell Bend is a favorite spot of mine to visit -- actually, all of Eastern Oregon is high on my list.

Renaissance Women said...

When I get up that way that would be a definite stop. We sometimes forget what others went through. Somehow the perspective makes our life less difficult.

Peggy said...

The Farewell Bend is a nice exhibit. I love driving through that area and thinking of my ancestors who took the trail.
I've camped at Deadman's Pass, where you can still see the ruts.
There's a museum in Baker City worth stopping, has displays of pioneer life and glow in the dark minerals.

Heidiwriter said...

I've often wondered the "why" of these pioneers' treks and also why they sometimes settled where they did, like eastern Montana, the middle of nowhere even yet!

Eunice Boeve said...

One of the things I always think of in regard to those people who traveled west is what they left behind never to see again. Did they leave a married daughter and her family, or their parents? We know they left old familiar scenes of childhood. An ancestor of mine decided not to go west because he had a young family and wanted to stay where if illness should befall them, the family doctor was close at hand. Then the family doctor went west.