The Oregon Trail Has No End; It Just Keeps On Going! And Going!


Oregon trail ruts near Highway 86 at Flagstaff Hill. Baker City. Oregon – from Evolv Travel

RE@L is truly pleased to have found an informative article on traveling “The Oregon Trail,” by Jennifer Billock in the current online Smithsonian Magazine. Fascination with The Oregon Trail  never seems to end. It always finds new legs, or to be more accurate, more wagon wheels moving. It keeps on rolling along. Fans and gamers are still following it.

ot-river-crossingIt’s no wonder that Oregon Trail (OT) was recently selected among the top Computer Games ever. OT was selected by an expert panel established by the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. Read more from one of RE@L’s previous blogs about that award .

We believe RE@L’s new software will be even more powerful and recognized in the museums of the future! Who knows? You may be able to make the trek yourself wearing a pair of virtual reality glasses.

Read our previous blog on the growth of virtual reality (VR) in museums across the country (click here). Why not use this new VR tool to experience epic events from history and even the future? It truly is the next best thing to being there!

Like the Oregon Trail computer learning game that MECC brought to the market back in the 70′s, there are also “wheel tracks” of later versions of the  Oregon Trail Games. You can find them on the computer, and now on mobile devices too. The good news is that RE@L is now working on some new software “Trails” and travels that will emulate MECC’s highly popular Oregon Trail™.

emigrants_crossing_the_plains_or_the_oregon_trail_albert_bierstadt_1869-jpg__1072x720_q85_cropThe same bells and whistles that made Oregon Trail so popular in schools and homes are now being refined by RE@L’s software team. We will deliver better, faster, more resource-rich teaching and learning to teachers and students everywhere.

220px-alfred_jacob_miller_-_prairie_scene_-_mirage_-_walters_371940149Author Jennifer Billock has written a fine online piece for the most recent Smithsonian Magazine. She provides fascinating details about the lasting wheelprints and stone markers of the many thousands of Oregon Trail wagon treks taken between 1840-1880.

Ms. Billock cites 9 such recognizable sites in her article along with web links where you can see visible evidence of the long trek to the West and hear the interesting stories behind it. 


Read Jennifer Billock’s fine article by clicking on: “Nine Places Where You Can Still See Wheel Tracks from the Oregon Trail”.

Here’s the lead-in to her story and her chosen sites:

220px-chimney_rock_ne“Any child of the 1980s is familiar with the basic skeleton of the Oregon Trail, from the celebrations warranted by a sight of Chimney Rock to the dangers of running a team of oxen at a grueling pace with meager rations. But even devoted players of the classic computer game, which turned 45 this year, may not know that relics of the trail itself are still carved into the landscapes of the United States.

The trail itself—all 2,170 miles of it—was braved by more than 400,000 people between 1840 and 1880. Weighed down with wagons and their pesonal possessions, the pioneers that dared travel the Oregon Trail slowly helped build the United States’ western half. The trail began in Independence, Missouri, and continued to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where pioneers could decide to either stay put or continue north or south and settle.

The Westward TrailAs the Oregon Trail evolved, thousands of wagons wore ruts into the ground that acted as an ad-hoc road for the settlers who followed. But they didn’t follow a single solid path. Rather, wagon wheels left ruts across the country as pioneers found various shortcuts and easier routes along the way. Many of those ruts still exist today, though some of them are in danger of destruction as municipalities push to stretch bigger and better power supplies across the region.”


Thanks to Jennifer Billock for her fascinating story on an old trek that changed the way to the West. Today, the trek is a lot quicker: The first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, providing faster, safer, and usually cheaper travel east and west (the journey took seven days and cost as little as $65). Yes, it costs more now, but you can fly there in a matter of a few hours.

Personally, we think the best way to experience it today, short of walking, would be to fly in an ultra-light airplane and follow the actual trail itself.

220px-meeker_in_omaha220px-meeker_airplane_1921Believe it or not, one of the first OT wagon travelers, Ezra Meeker, lived long enough to fly the entire trail. His gravestone reads, “They came this way to win and hold the West.” And so they did.

RE@L is working on better, faster, more effective ways to learn too. And learning games are a part of what we do. Stay tuned for more learning, more fun and more games to build interest as well as knowledge.

We did it well at MECC and we are doing it even better at REAL!


So, what’s on your personal bucket list? Take the trip now on Ms. Billock’s blog! Then, if you’re ambitious, trek it. Or drive it, or fly it.

If you do it the old-fashioned walking way, watch out for swollen river crossings and, above all, avoid dysentery!


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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.