A 2023 BGES Americana Field University Program
Presented by Neil Mangum
July 9-18, 2023; from Kansas City, MO
With the discovery of gold in California a need for rapid communication between potential investors and vendors produced an early precursor to Federal Express and UPS—The Pony Express. The concept of operations was based around an endless run of riders changing horses and riders at relay stations. The system was designed to sprint alongside of the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails making the 2000 mile run in just 10 days. It was a spectacular financial bust and yet few innovations better captured the imagination and spirit of the Wild West.
Today we can retrace significant elements of the route and share the stories of an enterprise that will leave you in awe of the unforgiving landscape and the optimistic execution of the long, lonely route. Ultimately it was negated by the Civil War, and overcome by the development of the telegraph and transcontinental railroads. Come on and join us.
Sunday, July 9, 2023
7 PM: Check in at the Drury Inn and Suites Kansas City Airport. Neil and I will meet you in the lobby and distribute readings and other information about the program. Kansas City is famous for steaks and BBQ and the Drury is famous for its Icebreaker Reception with free drinks and heavy snacks. So arrive early and if you have an appetite afterwards seek your pleasure for dinner. Your hotel is included.
Monday, July 10, 2023
Mount up at 8:15 AM, The Oregon Trail is an experience of many years, harsh days and cold nights. We are following the trail and with our master story teller and historian, Neil moderating the content you will get a robust menu of narrative and interpretation on each day. Today we will stop at Lone Elm Campground and Gardner Junction where the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails part. We will. Drive past the prominent landmark “Blue Mound” and then jump over to Lawrence where we will see the stuff remains of the famous War Horse and Little Big Horn Survivor “Commanche.” Before we end the day at the Heritage Inn in Marysville we will stop at St. Mary’ Mission, Vieux Cemetery, the Cholera Cemetery, Alcove Springs, Marshalls Ferry and the Pony Express Barn. Hotel, breakfast, lunch, and dinner provided.
Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Leaving at 8:15 we follow along the track of the Oregon Trail—it is familiar to many travelers as it follows the route several other western trails such as the California, and Mormon as well as the Pony Express—imagine the pace of covered wagons occasionally being disrupted by the startling instance of a sprinting horse carrying a mail pouch and riden by an aggressive and focused young man racing to a waypoint where he will change mounts and carry on. We’ve several significant sites today—Hollenberg Stage Station, Rock Creek Station where a Pony Express employee—James Butler Hickok, known to history as “Wild Bill” Hickok, shot and killed three men, The Narrows (scene of 1864 Indian attacks), Susan Hail’s grave, Fort Kearny and the site of the Plum Creek Massacre. We overnight at the Best Western Plus North Platte, Nebraska. Breakfast, lunch and hotel included.
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Keeping in mind the nation was embroiled in a destructive Civil War our stops today cover a number of small engagements between the native Americans and remaining US soldiers—this was the American frontier and antebellum military service almost certainly included postings in the west. Indeed it should not escape your notice that the entire route to date is chocked full of these sites. We will visit a rearely seen battlefield of that period at Blue Water. Today you will also notice that we have transitioned from the farming country of the Great Plains to the wide open spaces of the Nebraska panhandle. We will see navigational landmarks such as Frogs Head Bluff, Chimney Rock, and Courthouse Rock. Our featured stop today is Fort Laramie. Throughout the day we will make 3 or 4 stops to view the rutted sandstone landscape of hundreds of intrepid travelers along the Oregon Trail as we move to Guernsey where we overnight. Breakfast, lunch and your room at the Cobblestone Inn are provided.
Thursday, July 13, 2023
The changing landscape will become very pronounced today as we move to Lander Wyoming for our overnight stop. We start the morning stopping at Register Cliff and seeing the trail ruts across Guernsey. Our next encounter is the National Interpretive Trails Museum in Casper. We will then head to Fort Casper and cross Bessemer Bend at the North Platte River as we ascend towards South Pass—a significant milestone in the trails west. Other stops include Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate and the Mormon Handcart Park. Breakfast , lunch and lodging at the Shoshone Rose Hotel is included.
Friday, July 14, 2023
Today we pass through the mountains at South Pass. These awe inspiring geological formations must have fomented fear in those immigrants traveling west and yet they were unavoidable, without the breaks in the mountains such as at South Pass one imagines that the spirit of the traveler would have been broken. As we move through South Pass we will split from the California Trail and pick up the Oregon Trail—of course we should because the California Trail terminus was Sacramento. As we move toward the north we will see Pony Express sites at Big Spring, the Little Sandy Crossing of Green River, Simpson’s Hollow, and Lombard’s Ferry. Our afternoon stops feature the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho and legendary camping grounds at Soda Springs and Hooper Springs. Breakfast, lunch and the Fairfield Inn hotel in Pocatello is included.
Saturday, July 15, 2023
Moving into the wild and spectacular Pacific Northwest we will move along the Snake River and visit numerous sites along the route to include a reconstructed Fort Hall. We will visit Raft River crossing sites and the actual separation point of the California and Oregon Trails. Our afternoon takes us to Thousand Springs, and Three Island Crossing over the Snake River. We will overnight at the Best Western Vista Inn Boise, Idaho. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and the hotel are included.
Sunday, July 16, 2023
As is wont to happen in all these treks the end comes rapidly and we will cover more than 200 miles today starting with quick stops at the ward Family Massacre site and Fort Boise which is a reconstructed Hudson Bay Company Trading Post. We enter Oregon with views of Keeny Pass and a final crossing of the Snake River at Farewell Bend. We will spend a good portion of the afternoon visiting the Oregon Trail Interpretative Center near Baker City. We will overnight in Pendleton at the Rugged Country Lodge. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included along with the room.
Monday, July 17, 2023
Our final full day starts with our travels to Vancouver, Washington. The morning stops include Biggs Junction and numerous Deschutes River markers overlooking the Columbia River. We will reach a point in which the trail splits forcing travelers to make a last minute decision at The Dalles. They could either raft down the Columbia or take the Barlow Cut off to the South (I’d have taken the river). Either way you would end up at trail end in the Willamette Valley near Oregon City. Neil selected the Barlow Road. We will reach the Barlow Gate and Pass our travels completed. We will overnight in Vancouver, Washington.Breakfast, lunch, dinner and the hotel are included.
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
We will do a morning stop at the impressive Oregon Trail Interpretative Center in Oregon City and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site focusing on the Hudson Bay Company’s Trading Post. Depart at your leisure after 6 PM from Seattle. If you want to spend the night at the Seattle Airport the hotel and reservations are on your own as you depart back on July 19th. Seattle has several non stop flights back to Kansas
City if you flew or left your car there or you can book back directly to your own airports. Thank you for coming.
About the Faculty
Neil Mangum is one of the nation’s foremost historians and is an expert on frontier life. A retired National Park Service official, Neil served as Superintendent at the Little Big Horn National Battlefield as it transitioned from Custer National Battlefield. The popular Mangum only allows himself two or three tours a year and BGES is fortunate to enjoy his favor. He enjoys the clientele and the small folksy nature of the group that is usually well prepared. Neil is author of The Battle of the Rosebud: Prelude to the Little Big Horn. He has a following and most people on this trip will have traveled with him before which makes this event even nicer.
Your registration fee includes 9 nights single or double occupancy lodging.
The arrival airport is Kansas City International (MCI) and the departure airport will be Seattle (SEA). If you drive to Kansas City we will make arrangements for you to leave your car parked there—an additional charge may apply or you may want to park in long term parking at the airport and take the hotel shuttle back to the hotel. The hotel will be easily accessible by automobile. Amtrak services Kansas City. The return from Seattle to Kansas City includes a choice of nonstop early morning or evening and some red eye overnight flight options. We will assist you if you find any challenges making arrangements.
You will be provided with maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to
enhance your readiness for the program. These books are available online:
- David McCullough: The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West
- Francis Parkman: The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life
- Rinker Buck: The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
- David Klausmeyer: Oregon Trail Stories: True Accounts of Life in a Covered Wagon
Registration includes 9 nights lodging, 9 breakfasts, 9 lunches and 4 dinners, a reading book with maps, the academic program, support of a professional historian, tour director, all admissions and transportation. We will also provide snacks, bottled water and a limited selection of sodas.
Register for this program using a secure PayPal link
To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: The Oregon Trail: Trekking to the Great Pacific Northwest
Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.