While the official starting point of the Oregon National Historic Trail is in Independence, Missouri, the American Solar Challenge cars will "jump off" in Omaha, Nebraska on July 14. Check the 2018 American Solar Challenge page for details about race events on July 13 and 14. Follow the race and related events on Facebook with: American Solar Challenge and Oregon National Historic Trail.
Omaha, Nebraska: Trail’s Head
Council Bluffs-Omaha was one of many Missouri River crossings where emigrants of the mid-1800s “jumped off” onto the overland wagon trails. The first covered wagon pioneers to start west from Omaha were Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, heading to Utah in 1846. Gold-seekers bound for California merged with the continuing Mormon emigration beginning in 1849, and settlers going to Oregon soon joined the flow of traffic. In 1863 the Union Pacific Railroad began laying track out of Omaha for the transcontinental railroad, and that easier, faster, safer way to travel eventually brought an end to the covered wagon migration.
Learn more at these free venues:
- Pioneer Courage and Spirit of Nebraska Wilderness Sculptures (between Dodge St. and Capitol Ave., vicinity of 15th St., Omaha, Neb.) Stunning, heroic-scale statues of pioneers, covered wagons, livestock, buffalo, and geese span several blocks in the heart of downtown Omaha. Especially fun for kids! Bring change for metered parking. From I-480, take the US-6/Dodge Street exit toward Epply Airfield and go straight to enter Dodge Street. At 13th Street turn north and park on Capitol Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets. Look for the wagons and then follow the trail!
- Mormon Trail Center and Cemetery at Winter Quarters (3215 State St., Omaha, Neb.) This visitor center is on the site of historic Winter Quarters, where many of the first Mormon emigrants spent the deadly winter of 1846-47. It offers exhibits and films about the Mormon trek. Across the street is a historic cemetery that where the men, women, and children who died here that winter were laid to rest. Open daily 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. From westbound I-480 take Exit 2C and merge onto US-75 north. Drive 2.7 miles, bear right at N 30th Street, and continue for about 2 miles. Turn west (left) at State Street and drive 3 blocks to the center.
- Union Pacific Railroad Center (200 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, Iowa) Learn about the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s —and more! Open Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Bring change for parking. From Omaha, cross the river on eastbound I-680 and then merge onto I-29 via Exit 3A. Take IA-192 S Exit 56 on the left, toward the business district; in 0.42 mile, continue straight onto N 16th/IA-192. In 1.4 miles turn left onto W Broadway/US-6/IA-192. In about a mile turn right onto Pearl Street. Drive 2 blocks to the center, on the right.