Story of the American West

THE PRIMARY MOUNTAIN GATEWAY OVER THE ROCKIES

Mountain men exploring the Rockies first set foot in the Red Desert in 1812, and except for a few roads and the loss of bison herds, the landscape looks very similar today as it did then. Within the Desert lie the old mining towns of South Pass City and Atlantic City, and a network of rutted-out wagon trails are still visible. These trails are remnants from sections of the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails as the area served as the primary mountain gateway over the Rocky Mountains for hundreds of thousands of emigrants in the 1800s.

This national significance is one reason the area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

A historic marker along the Old Oregon Trail.

On the northern edge of the Red Desert lie the old mining towns of South Pass City and Atlantic City. Just south of them is the Sweetwater River valley that provided an easy route to South Pass and the crossing of the Continental Divide over the Rocky Mountains. The pass served as the primary mountain gateway from the east to the west for hundreds of thousands of emigrants in the 1800s, en route for Utah, California, or Oregon.

Today, visitors to the area can still see the network of rutted-out wagon trails from the thousands of settlers who traversed this landscape.

The Red Desert includes sections of the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails as well as the Pony Express mail route between the east and west coasts in the 1860s. The national significance of South Pass as a thoroughfare for western expansion is one reason the area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

TRI-TERRITORY HISTORICAL MARKER

The Tri-Territory Historic Site in the Red Desert marks the spot where Mexico, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Oregon Territory intersected. It is hard to imagine that anything ever happened at such an isolated location, but at this spot, three nations—Mexico, Great Britain, and the United States—met and competed for control of the North American continent. The Louisiana Purchase was bought from France in 1803, the Oregon Territory was obtained from Great Britain in 1846, and the Mexican Cession, which included the current states of California and those in the southwest, was obtained from Mexico in 1848.

Tri-Territory Historic Site location.