American Solar Challenge: Lander, Wyoming

Solar car teams will make a stage stop in Lander, Wyoming on July 17. Check the American Solar Challenge 2018 page for event details. Follow the race and related events on Facebook with: American Solar Challenge and Oregon National Historic Trail.

Lander, Wyoming: Over South Pass

The town of Lander is about 42 miles north of South Pass, a mountain crossing so gentle that most emigrants did not even realize they had entered the Pacific watershed —the Oregon Country! But the trek to the Willamette Valley was not yet half over, and the most dangerous miles lay ahead. At this point, many emigrants began to worry whether their provisions would hold out until they reached their destination.

Visit these locations to sample the trail over the Continental Divide:

  • South Pass, Wyoming: To cross South Pass on a modern paved highway, follow US-287 south out of Lander for 9 miles, then continue straight on WY-28 for about 30 miles. A state-operated rest area on the Sweetwater River, just short of the Continental Divide, offers information about the history of the area. Continue along the highway for 5.2 miles —a highway sign on the right will show where you cross the divide— and watch for a brown sign indicating the left turn into the South Pass Overlook, a Bureau of Land Management interpretive site. From that panoramic viewpoint, look down and to left to see the trail approaching Pacific Springs—the first water west of the pass and the place where emigrants realized they had crossed the Great Divide. Old ranch buildings stand near the springs today, but Pony Express and stagecoach stations occupied that area until they were burned by attacking warriors in 1862.
  • Watch for trail swales, shallow linear depressions caused by the passage of wagon wheels, on either side of the highway as you continue driving south on WY-28.
  • False Parting of the Ways, Wyoming: This highway pullout was developed many years ago to commemorate the Parting of the Ways, a fork in the trail where overland traffic split. Some travelers turned right onto the Sublette Cutoff, which heads due west across 45 miles of desert toward Fort Hall on the Snake River in Idaho. Others kept left on the original old Oregon Trail, continuing southwesterly toward Fort Bridger and Utah. This was a poignant landmark: families and friends who had crossed the plains together often parted ways here, never expecting to see each other again. Later, though, researchers located the real Parting of the Ways several miles northwest of here! By then, the monuments at this place, “False Parting of the Ways,” were themselves historic—and still worth a visit. From the South Pass Overlook continue 5.1 miles on southbound WY-28. The pullout is on the right.

Last updated: July 5, 2018

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