Mormon Trail

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The original 1846-1847 Mormon Trail went from Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois to Omaha, Douglas, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah. The length of the wagon trail from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City was about 1,300 mile (2,092 km).[1]

Background History

Nauvoo, Illinois from 1839 to 1845 was a gathering place for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called "Mormons"). In 1846 hostile neighbors forced an exodus of the main group out of Nauvoo across Iowa to the area near where Omaha, Nebraska would eventually be built. Most Mormon pioneers stayed there in "Winter Quarters" and in 1847 completed the journey to Salt Lake City in Utah Territory, their new gathering place.

Each of the following years until 1869 several areas in Kansas, Iowa, or Nebraska were used as staging areas for the trip on the Mormon Trail across the plains into the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City. Several sets of new wagon trains or handcart companies came each year to Salt Lake City. By the time the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 about 70,000 pioneers had walked, pulled a handcart, or ridden a wagon or carriage to Utah.


The Mormon Trail usually followed the north side of the North Platte River west through Nebraska and Wyoming to follow the Sweetwater River farther west. The trail went over South Pass, then worked its way through the mountains. Pioneers ferried across the Green River and forded the Bear River before reaching Salt Lake City.

The Mormon Trail overlapped parts of the Oregon Trail and California Trail which normally stayed on the south side of the North Platte and Sweetwater rivers. The Oregon Trail took a more northerly route after the Green River into Idaho and Oregon. The California Trail continued west from Salt Lake City into Nevada and California.

The exact route of the Mormon Trail varied over the years. Most often it passed through:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides an interactive website titled the Pioneer Story, which includes an interactive map of the historic trail, allowing you to search the trail from the beginning or allowing one to go to a specific location along the trail. A variety of personal accounts of some of the pioneers are included with each of the stops along the trek west from Nauvoo, Ilinois to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Connecting migration routes. The Mormon Trail linked to other migration routes at each end. The migration pathways connected at the east end included:

  • Mississippi River
  • Missouri River
  • Union Pacific Railroad 1865 from Omaha, Nebraska and extending its way west to Ogden, Utah in 1869

The migration pathways connected at the west end of the Mormon Trail included:

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Mormon Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah are listed in an online edition of a National Park Service publication about the Mormon Trail:

Settlers and Records

For additional sources about finding Mormon Trail pioneers, see the LDS Emigration and Immigration Wiki pages.

Pioneer Databases

Perpetual Emigration Fund. Pioneers who received financial assistance immigrating to Utah were expected to repay their debt. In 1877 a list of persons who still owed money was created. For details see the Perpetual Emigration Fund Wiki page.

Censuses also can be used to identify pioneers who traveled the Mormon Trail:

Local and county histories and biographies in Utah also may help identify additional pioneers. Some Mormon Trail pioneers also settled in Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, or California. For example:

  • Frank Esshom, Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah : comprising photographs, genealogies, biographies (Salt Lake City, Utah : Utah Pioneers Book, 1913). Digitized edition by BYU Family History Archives.
  • International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah : International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, c1998). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 1000615 Item 2; Book 979 D36p.
  • Biographical record of Salt Lake City and vicinity : containing biographies of well known citizens of the past and present (Chicago, Illinois : National Historical Record, 1902). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 1000615 Item 2; Book 979.225 D3b.

Settlers along the trail. Only a tiny fraction of pioneers settled along the Mormon Trail before reaching Salt Lake City, mostly in Iowa or the Omaha area. Only a few may have stayed three to five years before continuing to Utah. It was uncommon to remain much longer.

Deaths along the trail. Mormon pioneer companies experienced less than half the mortality rate on the trail compared to the Oregon Trail or California Trail. One of the better indexes about this is:

  • Bashore, Melvin L. [Database of] Mormon Trail Deaths 1847–1868. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Dept., 1998-. Each entry includes the person’s full name, sex, age, death date, death place, source and notes. The Church History Library and Archives staff will search the current database for you.

External Links


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Mormon Trail" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 6 July 2012).