The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Thirteen ways to think about the Oregon Trail Ruts

Thirteen ways to think about the Oregon Trail Ruts

Quiz Yourself

Here are some questions to ask before you visit the Oregon Trail Ruts, while you’re there, and again after you return:

  1. How long do you think it took the wagons to wear these ruts into the rock?
  2. What kind of rock is it? Is it hard or soft compared to other kinds?
  3. What was life like for the travelers who camped here with their wagon trains?
  4. Where did the pioneers get water?
  5. What did they use for fuel?
  6. What did the pioneers eat, mostly?
  7. Did the pioneers sleep in the wagons?
  8. How do you think Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux Indians felt when they saw wagon trains traveling past here?
  9. What kind of animals pulled the wagons?
  10.  Was this a steep hill for the animals? How did the pioneers get the animals to pull the wagons up the steepest hills? How did they get the wagons down the steepest hills?
  11. How did the pioneers take care of the animals?
  12. What did the animals eat? Did the animals change the country they were crossing? How?
  13. What was the Oregon Trail? The California Trail? The Mormon Trail? What do these ruts show about the people that crossed the trails?

THANKS to the fourth graders of Oregon Trail Elementary School, Casper, Wyo. for many of these questions.

THERE ARE MANY MORE good questions a person could ask about the Oregon Trail Ruts, the trail itself, the people who used it and the people who lived here already.

SEND US three interesting Oregon Trail Ruts questions of your own. Be sure to identify your school and classroom teacher or note if you are home schooled when you send in questions. Contact editor@wyohistory.org for information on a 2014-2015 contest for submitting the most questions.

Note to teachers:

This lesson addresses a number of the Wyoming State Social Studies Standards detailed in the 2013 draft of Wyoming Social Studies Content and Performance Standards, benchmarked for the ends of grades 2, 5, 8 and 12. All are available at http://edu.wyoming.gov/sf-docs/publications/DRAFT_2013_Social_Studies_Standards.pdf?

More specifically, the lesson addresses Content Standard 4, Time, Continuity and Change, under which students analyze events, people, problems, and ideas within their historical contexts, and Content Standard 5, People, Places and Environments, under which students apply their knowledge of the geographic themes (location, place, movement, region, and human/environment interactions) and skills to demonstrate an understanding of interrelationships among people, places, and environment.

Under Content Standard 4, the lesson addresses standards SS5.4.4. SS8.4.4 and SS12.4.4, which call for students to discuss, identify or describe historical interactions between and among individuals, families, and cultural/ethnic groups, and standards SS5.4.5, SSD8.4.5 and 12.4.5, which call for students to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to use them in their research.

Under Content Standard 5, this lesson addresses the Human Place and Movement standards SS2.5.3, SS5.5.3 (which specifically mentions American Indians and the Oregon Trail), SS8.5.3 and SS12.5.3, and the Environment and Society standards SS2.5.4, SS5.5.4, SS8.5.4 and SS12.5.4, which call on students to understand how people in Wyoming adjust and have adjusted to their physical and geographical environment.