Oregon and California Trails Fall 2020 Newsletter

Read the latest project updates and completions from the National Trails Office - Regions 6,7 and 8 (NTIR) of the National Park Service (NPS).

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National Trails Welcomes New Staff

A woman with long brown hair.
Margaret Frisbie

Photo/Margaret Frisbie

Margaret Frisbie (Meg), recently of the NPS Southeast Regional Office, joined NTIR’s cultural resources team in July. Meg holds a Masters of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Texas School of Architecture, with an undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Virginia. She has extensive experience in surveying, documenting, and evaluating landscapes, structures, and sites, and in preparing National Register nominations. For NTIR, Meg will be reviewing environmental documentation to identify potential impacts to national historic trails, and also will be engaging in partnership project work.

Contact Meg

A woman with shoulder length brown hair.
Ashley Wheeler

Photo/Ashley Wheeler

Also joining NTIR is Ashley Wheeler, an American Conservation Experience Fellow who is handling national historic trails outreach for NTIR and coordinating activities for the Santa Fe Trail Bicentennial. She is currently a PhD candidate in Communication at Arizona State University, where her studies focus on the rhetoric of historic places and the National Historic Preservation Act. She has a Masters of Science in Architecture, Masters of Arts in Communication, graduate certificate in historic preservation, and a Bachelors of Science in Interior Design. While working on her PhD, Ashley has participated in the US International Council of Monuments and Sites’ international exchange program, and interned with the NPS State, Tribal, and Local Plans and Grants division.

Contact Ashley

A women with light hair pulled back, stands underneath a tree.
Lillis Urban

Photo/Lillis Urban

Dr. Lillis Urban is the new Chief of Planning with NTIR. Her first tasks for NTIR will be leading both the Pike and the Emancipation national historic trail feasibility studies. Lillis worked previously as a Planning and Environmental Coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Office. Her past work also includes positions with New Mexico State Parks, the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Navajo Nation, and New Mexico State University (NMSU). She holds a Doctorate in Biology from NMSU, focused on ecology and botany, and a Master's Degree in the Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Contact Lillis

Work in the Time of Covid

NTIR staff have been teleworking full time from home since mid-March, and will continue to do so until notified to return to our offices. Meanwhile, personnel are available during regular work hours through their usual email addresses and cell phone numbers. If you need a staffer’s cell number, call 505-988-6098 in Santa Fe or 801-741-1012 ext 119 to inquire.

Oregon Auto Tour Route Guide in Review

The interpretive narrative section of the auto tour route guide for the Oregon National Historic Trail (NHT) through Oregon is midway through review by consulting tribes. They have been very helpful in developing a more well-rounded understanding of the trail and its significance. Select Oregon California Trails Association (OCTA) partners from Oregon who have helped develop this guide will be invited to fact-check the piece in the coming weeks, after which it will go to our interpretive team for layout and production. Joint NPS and OCTA planning for the final guide in the state-by-state series, the auto tour route guide to the California and Pony Express NHTs in California begins this autumn.

A wayside exhibit sign looking out over a dirt road and distant desert mountains.
Visit the wayside at City of Rocks, Idaho.


New Waysides at City of Rocks

Twelve colorful new interpretive wayside exhibits, produced with NPS Connect Trails to Parks funding obtained through NTIR, have been installed along the California NHT at City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho. The Reserve coordinated interpretation and artwork with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall to tell the full story of the area and its trails. NTIR provided review and editing assistance.

A view looking out on a large river, cutting through high canyon walls.
View of Columbia Gorge from Moody Road.


Overlanders through the Columbia River Gorge Narrative

Historical Research Associates (HRA) is nearing completion of its one-year Oregon Trail narrative history contract with NTIR. They have been contracted to write a narrative of the overlanders movement through the Columbia River Gorge from approximately 1840 to 1870. Among other topics, this chronological narrative history discusses hydrological hazards, water travel methods, land travel routes and methods, livestock trails, ongoing and changing interactions between American Indians and overlanders, and American Indian settlements and businesses along the river.

In August, NTIR staff, OCTA volunteers, and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office completed their review of the 188-page draft, which includes a glossary, tables, numerous maps, and figures. HRA will submit the final manuscript by the end of September 2020.

First Year in Oregon Research Project

NPS has awarded Historical Research Associates (HRA) a contract to undertake the “First Year in Oregon” research project. The purpose of this study is to discover how arriving emigrants coped the first winter and several years after reaching the end of the Oregon Trail. The timeframe of interest is the early Oregon Trail migration period of 1834 (when the first Protestant missionaries arrived) through 1869. HRA will conduct archival research in key repositories, libraries and online sources; compile relevant historical photos and images; identify any extant pioneer cabins in Oregon dating to the period of interest; and prepare a scholarly, professional research paper presenting their findings.

Additionally, HRA will prepare a simple narrative document summarizing key findings in plain English for a general readership. This document will contain links to quotes, images, and other materials that graphically support the key findings and are appropriate for use with the general public on social media sites, websites, or other media. This project kicks off September 2020 and ends October 2021.

Brown trail signs on a post, with a road and tree behind it.
Signs placed in the City of Placerville, in El Dorado County, CA along State Route 49.


Signing Updates

California and Pony Express NHTs - Caltrans signing update: Almost all of the signs for district 3 and district 9 have been installed for the California and Pony Express NHTs!

California NHT - Directional signs were ordered for Emigrant Lake State Park, OR directing visitors to the California Trail Pioneer Cemetery and a set of wayside exhibits on the trail.

California, Oregon, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express NHTs – 12 signs were ordered to mark the trail along county roads in Scott's Bluff County, NE.

Trail Inventory Mobile Application Available Now

There is an exciting new opportunity for OCTA to contribute to the Oregon and California National Historic Trail mapping efforts. NTIR’s Resource Information Management (RIM) team has developed a mobile application (app) for tracking assets along the trail such as interpretive waysides, trail markers, museum exhibits, and NHT road or pedestrian signs. This app utilizes a user-friendly interface, similar to a fillable PDF, and only requires filling out prompted questions and taking site asset photos while the mobile device captures the global positioning system (GPS) location. The location records automatically when the user submits information about the sign, marker, wayside, or exhibit. The app eliminates the use of complex and sometimes costly GPS devices and in turn enables users the same capability on their smart phone or tablet utilizing the built-in GPS. No cellular coverage or internet connectivity is required for field recording of locations because uploads can occur once the user is connected back to a network.

NTIR plans to share this app with OCTA members to use on their smart phones or tablets. The association will be able to collaborate with NTIR to identify interpretive NHT resources out in the field for the public to enjoy. Participants will be given an ArcGIS Online partner account to access the app. This inventory will also help NTIR identify NHT assets, their condition, and actions to fix, replace, or correct the location of interpretive media.

Connect with the Trails

California National Historic Trail, Oregon National Historic Trail

Last updated: September 30, 2020