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June 4, 2008

  Colleen Sievers

Oregon-California Trails Association Trek Visits “New” Ruts

Ruts along the Cherokee Trail in Southwest Wyoming.

Oregon-California Trail Association spring trekkers along the Cherokee Trail in southwest Wyoming.

Oregon-California Trail Association member Glenn Harris stops at a Cherokee Trail historical marker in southwestern Wyoming.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) archaeologist Terry Del Bene accompanied 45 members of the Wyoming chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association (OCTA) as they held their spring trek this year following the Cherokee Trail in southwest Wyoming.

The Cherokee Trail was blazed in 1850 by Cherokee Indians on their way to the California gold fields. According to Jack and Patricia Fletcher, authors of Cherokee Trail Diaries, the path was a “safe route,” being relatively free of the Asiatic cholera which decimated travelers on the main California trail. 

The remnants of this chapter of American history are preserved on both public lands and private lands north of Hiawatha, Wyo. in the form of ruts, swales and traces which mark the passage of the men and women who joined the California gold rush.

Del Bene said the tracks followed by OCTA's spring trek were found and recorded in the fall of 2007 as part of a study analyzing proposed development in the Hiawatha area. “These are some of the best remnants in the entire Cherokee Trail system,” beamed historian and OCTA trekker Jack Fletcher.

The trekkers closely examined the trail segments and marveled at the almost pristine condition of the landscape surrounding it. “Right here it still looks like 1850 all around us,” commented Don Hartley, local resident and representative of the OCTA’s preservation committee, while scanning the scenery around a segment of trail.

The recordation of over 20 miles of previously unmapped trail ruts in 2007 will greatly improve agency efforts to manage these fragile resources. “If we don’t know where the trail is, it’s impossible to manage it,” said BLM Rock Springs lead archaeologist Colleen Sievers.

Field work in 2007 was halted by early snows. Mapping of “new” trail segments continues in 2008.

For more information about the Cherokee Trail or other National Historic Trails in Wyoming, 
contact Colleen Sievers at 307-352-0324.

- BLM -

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