Water Dictated Wagon Train Routes …


For the brave souls who undertook the arduous, twenty-one-hundred-seventy-mile journey along the Oregon Trail, there
was a constant struggle to provide enough water for themselves and their animals. Their prairie schooner could carry only one-ton of supplies. Typically, a water barrel strapped to the side of the wagon only held fifteen to twenty gallons.

Most wagon masters encouraged their charges to have six or seven pair of oxen, and each animal needed fifteen to twenty gallons of water per day. Each person used a gallon or less for their needs, so no one could carry enough water. Consequently, all the well-traveled trails leading to Oregon or California followed a river. In addition to the water supply, that’s where the grass was the best as well.

Most wagon trains averaged covering fifteen to twenty miles in a day—that’s going approximately a ten-hour day with a noon hour dinner break. Of the remaining fourteen hours, a considerable portion was devoted to water needs—either taking the oxen to water, the easiest, or hauling water to the animals at ten gallons a trip.
With water weighing eight-point-three pounds per gallon. That’s about all any grown man would want to carry in two five-gallon water buckets per trip. It didn’t leave a whole lot of time for doing much else, other than trying to sleep a bit.
The emigrants first crossed the Missouri River then went northwest to pick up the Platte River which would provide all the wagon trains water for about half of their journey. It took them west through what is today Nebraska then more north and still west across Wyoming. They traveled beside the Sweetwater River and Green River before picking up the Snake River in what is Idaho today. Those going on to Oregon kept with it.

Settlers headed to California broke off the Oregon Trail at Fort Hall then started south along the Humboldt and later the Truckee River. For those sojourners, water became an even greater consideration. The closer the train got to the Forty Mile Desert, located in Nevada. It ran from the end of the Humboldt River to either the Carson River or the Truckee River.
This was the most dreaded section of their travels. The closer the trains got to it, the more alkaline the water became. Experienced wagon train masters encouraged their people to bring vinegar to neutralize some of the alkaline and make it more drinkable.

The reason crossing the Forty Mile Desert was the most difficult challenge of course was the lack of water, but also the extreme temperatures.

Most trains hit the desert in August, trying to get over the Sierra Nevada mountain range before the first snow. Being the hottest part of summer, they traveled only at night. Before 1850 almost a thousand people died there and ten thousand animals.

Mark Twain went across it and said of his journey, “It was a dreary pull and a long and thirsty one, for we had no water. From one extremity of this desert to the other, the road was white with the bones of oxen and horses. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that we could have walked the forty miles and set our feet on a bone at every step!”

Would you have undertaken such a perilous journey?

My newest novel LILAH released on May 3rd, my seventieth birthday! It is book five in the Prairie Roses Collection for Mother’s Day each year, offering strong-hearted heroines who traveled in the 1800s by covered wagon. It’d be a blessing to me for you to try this story, especially if I’m a new author to you! LILAH at AMAZON
((TO LINK:  https://amzn.to/2xBFhxs




Wanting to BE a blessing, I’ve arranged a gift for all the Petticoats & Pistols’ readers today. JEWEL’S GOLD will be FREE at AMAZON ((TO LINK: https://amzn.to/2YIYvMT from Friday, May 8th through Tuesday, May 12th! Y’all enjoy! (UPDATE: There was a snafu with Amazon. Caryl has reset the book to be free, but it won’t start until tomorrow Saturday, May 9. The freebie will extend through Wednesday, May 13. She apologizes profusely!)






Bio : Award-winning, hybrid author Caryl McAdoo prays her story gives God glory. Her best-selling novels have garnered over 1000 5-Star reviews, attesting to the Father’s love and favor. Readers love her historical Christian romance family sagas best, but she also writes Christian contemporary romance, Biblical fiction, and for young adults and mid-grade booklovers. They count Caryl’s characters as family or close friends. The prolific writer loves singing the new songs God gives her almost as much as penning tales—hear a few at YouTube! Married to Ron over fifty years, she shares four children and nineteen grandsugars. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.

Links :
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Caryl-McAdoo/e/B00E963CFG?tag=pettpist-20

BookBub – https://www.bookbub.com/authors/caryl-mcadoo?follow=true

Website: http://www.CarylMcAdoo.com

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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_1hQx6UZbWi3OYwmKKxh6Q
(Hear Caryl sing her New Songs!)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CarylMcAdoo.author

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40 thoughts on “Water Dictated Wagon Train Routes …”

  1. Caryl- Thank you got such a great blog. I know I would have tried the journey to Oregon, the south one across the 40 mile desert, I’m not so sure. I really feel their plight in which they all endured trying to get to better land, for their families.
    Thank you for the free book, that was so sweet of you.
    Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the ladies here.
    May God bless you all.

  2. I would be tempted to try this journey. I think an experienced leader would be necessary.

    • Thank you for your comment, Debra!! I know if Ron said, “Let’s go, want to?” I’d say, “Sure! When do we leave?”! But you’re right about the wagon train master having a great reputation–you’re literally putting your life (and everything you own) in his hands. BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day to you!

  3. I don’t know if I would have the courage to take that journey. I guess it would depend on who was in charge and if I could really trust them to get everyone there safely.

    • Amen! I guess in today’s time, we’d have to pray and get a LOUD Word from the Lord to go! Thanks for you comment, Janine! BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day to you!

  4. Wow … I enjoyed this bog. You are a new author for me to get acquainted with. Thank you for coming to P&P today.

    • Hello Kathy and thank you! 🙂 I unashamedly outrageously thrilled to find new readers, so YAY! Woo Hoo! Have I got a treat for you! I hope you’ll grab JEWEL’S GOLD tomorrow to get a taste of my writing and stories! Then if you go back and read my Texas Romance Family Saga—-ten books, five Texas generations, 1832 to 1951!—-you’ll recognize some of Jewel’s ancestors! 🙂 BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day to you!

  5. I am not sure I would have tried to take that trip. I am not much on traveling now in today’s time so I know I would have wanted to back then. It was a rough time I am sure. Happy Mother’s Day!

    • My husband is a home body, but usually ready for an adventure. My BFF (40+ years) Elaine is DEFINITELY an avowed homebody and would NEVER go! Tanky for your comment, Quilt Lady! BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day to you!

  6. Thank you so much for such an interesting blog this morning. I’m amazed at the strength it took just to survive the hard journey of the wagon train !! I for one can honestly say I don’t think I would of made it , but I would of tried my hardest to survive. We really don’t realize how easy we have it travelers in our times to the 1800 !!

  7. Caryl, thank you for sharing your very interesting blog. I think I would have taken the journey.
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Hey, my friend! It’s been so long! You’re welcome of course; it’s my blessings to visit Petticoats & Pistols today! BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day!

  8. What a great blog, thanks for stopping by P&P! The Oregon trail from the East was already such a long, hard, treacherous trail that I don’t know that I would have ventured on through a desert. I can’t even begin to imagine that stretch of travel. The lose of human and animal lives had to be staggering! Thank you so much for the free book, I can’t wait to read it. I yet to read one of your books so how fun! Stay safe during these very difficult times!

    • Thanks, Charlene! There’s so much about it too! I have fodder for many more books! I loved traveling their trail! BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day!

  9. Hi Caryl! Welcome back to P&P. We’re so happy to have you visit again and write such a fascinating blog. You’ve given me things to think about. Wishing you much success! 🙂

  10. First congrats on the release and Happy (late) Birthday! And for your long lasting marriage. It will be 51 years for us in June. Once you get a good one I guess you have to keep him. Really enjoyed the blog. I watch Wagon Train reruns every day because that journey is fascinating to me. And I know the real experience was grueling. I am not sure I would be able to make it. What bravery and determination it took to get in that wagon. Thanks so much for your giveaways. You are a new author to me but I think I’ve found another author for my always-read list. Stay safe.

    • WOO HOO, I LOVE being a new author to a reader, because I am THRILLED every time I find a new reader to me! Laaaa! Everyone gets blessed–that’s just the way God does things! Thanks so much and yes, ma’am! Gotta hang on tight to those good men! The Lord really blessed me when I was 16 years old! (we married at 18! 🙂 BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day!

  11. I do not know if I would have had the courage to undertake one of these trips or not. I admire the people who did, but I’m not sure I’m made of the right stuff. I definitely enjoy our modern conveniences too much. Thank you for the book! I haven’t read any of your books so I am looking forward to being introduced to a new author.

  12. Yee HAW! I love finding new readers as much as you probably love finding new authors! I hope you’ll remember to grab JEWEL’S GOLD tomorrow. It’ll be a good introduction and you’ll have SO MANY new stories ahead! BLESSINGS and Happy Mothers’ Day!

  13. I want to thank all the ladies at Petticoats & Pistols for inviting me today! I always enjoy working with Karen Witmeyer to arrange a visit! Y’all are just great and such a blessing! <3 BLESSINGS to you all and y'all have a Happy Mothers' Day! <3

  14. Thank you for an interesting post. Thank you for JEWEL’S GOLD.
    In my youth, I very likely would have done it. I was physically able and always interested in discovering more about the world. I wasn’t exactly an adventure seeker, but I was interested in seeing and experiencing all I could. Now, there is no way I could do it, age and an auto-immune disease have sort of clipped my wings. It doesn’t mean I am not still exploring, I am just doing it in a bit more comfort, an RV. Even then, our trip across the country then on to Alaska last year met with its share of obstacles. We hit storms – rain, snow, and ice – flooded roads, closed bridges, tornadoes (thankfully to the south of us), wild fires, and record heat. It slowed us down and caused us to stay put a few times. Thinking of dealing with all of that in a covered wagon makes one realize what a daunting task those early settlers faced. Some of the flooding we hit would have made it impossible for wagons to go anywhere for quite a while.

    Stay safe and healthy.

    • I suppose it’s true then . . . In this world, we will have tribulation, Patricia! I am definitely in agreement that wagon trains were for the young. Old folks should just stay put and not take off across the country in such as a covered wagon! Can you imagine how many probably fell and couldn’t get up! ? 🙂
      BLESSINGS! And Be Safe! <3

  15. Hello My Sista to the North! Thank you for this fascinating post!

    Enjoy your Mother’s Day Weekend! (((HUGS)))

    • How I smile every time I see your name! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, dearest sister to the South! That makes you a Southern Sister, I suppose 🙂 I love you!

  16. I would think that if we were born at that time, we wouldn’t have a choice, we would just have to go on the journey for the better. This is so very interesting, Thank you so much for sharing your article Caryl. Your books sound so awesome!

    • HELLO Alicia! Well, have you read GONE TO TEXAS where my heroine’s name is Alicia? 🙂 You’re welcome! I’ve learned so much about those travelers in my research, an the more I learn, the more I admire them! <3 BLESSINGS!

  17. Great research, Caryl, your depth of understanding of exactly how much water and the number of oxen, etc. is fascinating. It’s amazing that anyone was brave enough to travel in a wagon train across such an expanse and facing all kinds of dangers, not just enough water. Great blog!

    • Thank you, Hebby, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the information! The research for the wagon train stories has been fascinating! I’ve enjoyed every bit of it 🙂 Hugs and Blessings! I’d say it’s time for us to get together again! I can’t believe it’s been six years!

  18. I probably wouldn’t have gone through the desert, but I might have tried one of the other routes.

    • That causes me to wonder how much the settlers asked and how much information the wagon masters offered as to what lay ahead, because by the time you got there, Denise, there was no turning back. You went on with the train or you died. I would imagine they didn’t know how horrible it would be.
      And THAT reminds me about this new knee of mine! I never knew how terrible it would be either, but there’s no turning back! 🙂

  19. Caryl welcome. This is an interesting post. Thank you for sharing.
    Thank you for the book.
    Happy Mothers Day to a very special lady.

  20. Caryl, my writing friend, your books captivate me…so love ’em! As for those brave folks who traveled cross-country via covered wagon, it’s unimaginable! I’m too much of a whimp to have tried. In my childhood, Dad treated us to a taste of such travels when he took us in our family car from NYC area to Oklahoma and Kansas every Summer to visit relatives. That was tough enough even with motels, rest areas, and picnic grounds! Thanks for writing my friend. Loved “Lilah”!

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