Across the Great Divide


Across the Great Divide Robert Stuart and the Discovery of the Oregon Trail

Across the Great Divide brings to life Robert Stuart’s ten-month journey and the remarkable courage, perseverance, and resourcefulness these seven men displayed in overcoming unimaginable hardships. Stuart had come to the Pacific Northwest to make his fortune in the fur trade, but during his stay in the wilderness he emerged as a pioneering western naturalist of the first rank, a perceptive student of Native American cultures, and one of America’s most important, if least-known, explorers. Today Stuart’s expedition has largely been forgotten, but it ranks as one of the great adventure odysseys of the nineteenth century.

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Setting out in 1812 on the return trip from establishing John Jacob Astor’s fur trading post at Astoria on the Oregon Coast, Robert Stuart and six companions traveled from west to east for more than 3,000 grueling miles by canoe, horseback, and ultimately by foot, following the mountains south until they came upon the one gap in the 3,000-mile-long Rocky Mountain chain that was passable by wagon.
Situated in southwest Wyoming between the southern extremes of the Wind River Range and the Antelope Hills, South Pass was a direct route with access to water leading from the Missouri River to the Rockies. Stuart and his traveling party were the first white men to traverse what would become the gateway to the Far West and the Oregon Trail. In the decades to come, an estimated 300,000 emigrants followed the corridor Stuart blazed on their way to the fertile farmlands of the Willamette Valley and the goldfields of California.

ISBN – 978-1-4767-3003-5

307 Pages

Free Press, 2003