TENS OF THOUSANDS of pioneers were bound for the Utah Territory, but many others continued their journey west, drawn by promises of gold in California or fertile farmland in Oregon. The attraction of gold spoke for itself, and early publicists for the Oregon Territory regaled farmers back east with tales of soil so fertile that crops almost grew themselves and rivers so full of salmon that Indians walked across them without getting wet.
Oregon beckoned as a Promised Land, but getting there was the problem. Crossing the thick tangle of old growth in the Cascade Mountains proved almost impossible. Unfortunately, the alternative was navigating the wild currents and waterfalls of the mighty Columbia River.
Still, pioneers came, by the thousands. The Oregon Trail ended in Oregon City, where a small city sprang up (pictured).
Today the Columbia River is still majestic.
The Cascade Mountains are more accessible than they were in the 19th century, with hundreds of hikes for those who love to wander.