First described in 1842 by explorer John C. Fremont, Warm Springs, near present Guernsey, Wyo., is one of the most famous water holes on the Oregon-California Trail. Many emigrants stopped here to rest, bathe, wash clothes and carve their names on nearby sandstone bluffs.
On Oct. 5, 1857, a band of Mormon militia attacked U.S. Army supply wagons at Simpson’s Hollow west of what’s now Farson, Wyo., burning 26 wagons and stampeding army mules. The army was advancing on Utah to enforce federal law there, and the Mormons resisted—all part of the bloodless Utah War.
The Sixth Crossing of the Sweetwater offered wagon-train emigrants good water again after 16 dry and dusty miles. Most camped at the crossing. Here, in 1856, 500 members of the Willie Handcart company, most of them Mormon converts from England, were found starving, freezing and dying by rescuers from Salt Lake City.
The main branch of the Oregon Trail crossed the Big Sandy River at present Farson, Wyo. State Highway 28 running southwest from Farson continues to parallel the route. Swales are often visible alongside the highway, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left.
Dry and sandy accurately describe the creek crossing where good water was scarce and wagons often foundered in an alkaline mire. Travelers often noted decaying livestock carcasses and thick clouds of gnats; most kept going if they could. Later years saw establishment of a stage and Pony Express station here.
Deep, crystal-clear waters with snow-capped views greeted emigrants as they arrived at the final crossing of the Sweetwater River near South Pass. At times, hundreds of travelers waited impatiently for makeshift ferries, hoping to outrun the cholera they feared was being carried toward them by parties farther back along the trail.