Mormon Pioneer Trail

It has been said that the exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1846 of 15,000 Latter-day Saints, and the massive migration of Mormon Pioneers which followed, was one of the greatest movements of a religious body in the history of the world. The journey of these people across 1,300 miles of an almost trackless wilderness to an unknown Zion is a story which will never grow old. It was a story of supreme faith in God and in their leaders. It was possible only because of the Fire of the Covenant that burned within the breasts of those courageous pioneers.

The first wave of the Mormon migration fled relentless persecutions from mobs in early February 1846. Sub-zero temperatures and blizzards were followed by rain and deep mud, as thousands of refugees followed Brigham Young across Iowa. Unable to continue west that year, the exhausted and hungry pioneers built crude, temporary shelters for the winter in makeshift towns in Iowa and Nebraska. Then in the spring of 1847, the great trek to the Valleys of the Mountains continued. This year, and in the two decades following, tens of thousands traveled in creaking wagons, by horseback and on foot. Many who went on foot pulled rickshaw-like handcarts those 1,300 miles, loaded with 500 pounds of provisions and personal belongings — all they owned on earth. They built bridges, they braved unforgiving weather and they fought disease. They buried their dead along the way.

The “wedding of the rails” which occurred near Promontory Summit, Utah in May 1869, brought the transcontinental railroad and an end to the pioneer era. By this time 60-80,000 Latter-Day Saints had made the journey to their Promised Land.

The historian of the pioneer trail, Stanley B. Kimball, Ph.D., has written a comprehensive 40-page summary of the Mormon Trail from Nauvoo to the West. You may Click Here to access this history online.

The United States National Parks Service is the Federal agency charged with identifying, protecting and promoting early pioneer trails.  For NPS information on the Mormon Trail, Click Here.