Stegner called South Pass “one of the most deceptive and
impressive places in the West.” Nowhere can travelers cross the
Rockies so easily as through this high, treeless valley in Wyoming
immediately south of the Wind River Mountains. South Pass has received
much attention in lore and memory but attracted no serious book-length
study—until now. In this narrative, award-winning author Will
Bagley explains the significance of South Pass to the nation’s
history and to the development of the American West.
|Fur traders first saw South
Pass in 1812. From the early 1840s until the completion of the Union
Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads almost forty years later,
emigrants on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails used South Pass
in transforming the American West in a single generation.
peopling of the region by the earliest inhabitants and adventurers,
including Indian peoples, trappers and fur traders, missionaries, and
government-commissioned explorers. Later, California gold rushers,
Latter-day Saints, and families seeking new lives went through this
singular gap in the Rockies. Without South Pass, overland wagons
beginning their journey far to the east along the Missouri River could
not have reached their destinations in a single season, and western
settlement might have been delayed for decades.