Hundreds of thousands of Americans traveled westward during the migration of the 1840s and 1850s. Pioneers had a choice of trails, but none was easy. The Oregon Trail alone claimed some 34,000 lives—most from accidents or cholera. About one grave was dug for every hundred yards. The biggest fear was not finishing the journey before winter with its deadly storms. Those who were successful could claim inexpensive, fertile land and had an excellent chance of carving out a good life for themselves.

Map by National Geographic Society

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