1. South Pass

South Pass is located in Wyoming and was utilized by travelers on the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail, along with the Pony Express riders, the Overland Stage, and the first transcontinental telegraph line. While it was used by Native Peoples for at least 10,000 years, its first known use by European or American explorers was in October, 1812. Robert Stuart, a Scottish-born fur trader and scout under the employ of John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company was selected to lead a small group overland from the mouth of the Colombia River (in present-day Oregon) to New York City. They were tasked with bearing the news of the destruction of one of Astor’s trading ships. Stuart learned of the pass from an encounter with a Shoshone scout and later described it in his October 22 diary entry as “a handsome low gap.” It wasn’t until 1824, though, that fur trappers re-discovered South Pass and indicated its suitability for wagon passage across the Rocky Mountains. News of the pass began to spread and its future as a westward emigration path was established. Today, lying at an elevation of about 7400 feet, the original South Pass route can be visited off of Wyoming Highway 28, as shown on the map below.