- from Westward Expansion
It’s been a long trip. The land was bumpy and the rivers were wide and strong. But at last your family has come to Independence, Missouri! Many pioneers rush around in this busy town, buying supplies for their journey west.
At first your folks planned to take the Oregon Trail. That would get you almost to the Pacific Ocean. But they might take the Santa Fe Trail instead. It goes west too, but heads south through warmer territory. Which path would you like best?
How did settlers know the way across plains, mountains, and rivers? What did they do if things went wrong? Some got help from pathfinders. These were people who mapped paths through territory that most settlers didn't know.
Many pathfinders were early western settlers. They had made a living by selling furs. As more people moved in, trappers found fewer wild animals to hunt. But they knew the West better than most pioneers did. They could help with rough trails or bad weather. Guiding travelers to good land became a new way to make a living.