The historic Oregon Trail descends from the benchlands across the valley to the river bottom below. Brigham Young's 1847 Company of Mormon Pioneers crossed the south side of the North Platte River near Fort Laramie to follow the Oregon Trail past this point. William Clayton, in his guidebook for emigrants, describes the trail as a "steep hill to descend... the descent being over rock and very steep... dangerous to wagons, but it is not lengthy."
The trail followed a line of bluffs, beginning west of Fort Laramie, before dropping to the river bottom. The descent down Mexican Hill required the emigrants to lock their wagon wheels in order to keep the wagons from running away or rolling into the ox teams. Once they made it to the bottom, the route opened up for a short distance before the river forced them back toward the cliffs. Journals and diaries from the 1840s & 1850s remind us of the determination and will of pioneer families who pushed and pulled their wagons and belongings along this rocky road in order to start a new life on the American frontier.
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The steep, rocky descent, known as Mexican Hill, acquired its name from a group of Mexican settlers living along the river plain below . In the early 1840s, they constructed an irrigation system along the river flats to water their vegetable gardens. The often traded a variety of these vegetables with the emigrants and soldiers passing through the area.
Thomas Bullock, June 4, 1847 - at Mexican Hill. "We had a very steep hill to descend between 4 & 5. We not only locked Wheels, but had attached ropes to the hind end of the Wagons (with) the brethren holding back at the same time. In about 2 hours we got safely thro' 7 halt for the night at 5:20 in the bottom, near the River, having traveled 8 1/4 miles. A thunder shower passing over at the time from the North directly afterwards and we saw two perfect rainbows in the heavens and an Eagle flying in the Air..."
William Clayton, Saturday June 5th, 1847 - at Deep Hill Ruts. " ... After traveling a little over four miles we ascended a steep bluff. The road runs on the top of it a little distance in a very crooked direction, the surface in some places being hard, uneven rock, which shakes and jars the wagons very much. In one place there is a little descent and at the bottom a very sharp turn in the road over rough rock. Here Brother Crow's cart turned over. However, it was soon righted and no injury done to anything..."