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Marking Historic Trails

The heart of OCTA's historic trail preservation program is the identification and marking of historically significant 19th century emigrant wagon trails. Beginning in 1982, the year OCTA was founded, an on-going effort has and is being made to map and mark three National Historic Trails and their alternate routesthe Oregon National Historic Trail, the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, and the California National Historic Trail. White Carsonite posts (visible in the accompanying photographs) are used with identifying logo and trail name decals. The California-Nevada Chapter and the Utah Crossroads Chapter have also placed, and are placing, heavy rail posts at selected sites and segments. Trail marking posts are placed on trail segments and at historic trail sites that have been identified and verified by historians and cartographers who have studied and mapped the trail routes.

Trail routes go through private, state owned and federal public lands. Permission to place the OCTA trail markers must be obtained from the owners and agencies who own or are responsible for management of public lands. OCTA and the state chapters work with land owners, state and federal agencies and other historic trail organizations to identify, map, mark and protect the last remaining vestiges of these historic wagon trails and historic trail sites. Utah Crossroads works closely with the Long Distance Trails Office of the National Parks Service, the regional offices of the Bureau of land Management, the Utah State Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Recreation, and the Utah Historic Trails Consortium. Owners of private and corporate property on whose land historic trail routes cross are advised and consulted when pristine trail evidence such as wagon wheel ruts, swales, and trail landmarks are threatened by cultivation, corporate exploration or development.

The white Carsonite posts and decals used in the trail marking program are purchased with OCTA's Trail Committee funds, or are financed by the National Park Service under a Challenge Cost-Share Program agreement. The Cost-Share Program provides NPS funds for the purchase of trail mapping and marking materials for approved projects. OCTA's share of approved projects is met through volunteer labor hours and mileage.

Utah Crossroads has mapped and marked the California Trail alternate routes in Utahthe Hastings Cutoff and Hensley's Salt Lake Cutoff. The Mormon Pioneer Trail and California Trail west of Fort Bridger to the Salt Lake Valley has been marked with white Carsonite posts by the Utah Crossroads and Wyoming chapters of OCTA. As a result of ongoing trail research by historians and trail enthusiasts, the work of mapping and marking historic trails and their variants is a constant process. Regrettably too, trail markers and interpretive panels are often damaged or destroyed by vandalism. As a result, marking trails will never be a completed project. OCTA volunteers give generously of their time, talents and resources to map, mark and preserve historic wagon trails and trail sites. 

-Al Mulder



Trail Marking Gallery

Getting out and marking the trails is both a lot of effort and a lot of fun. Usually done on a Saturday, plenty of preparations go into being ready to place the right monument in the right place. Here are a few photographs from recent trail marking activities. The locations are remote and you can see that it can take a lot of hands to do the job right. Join us some time for a day of trail marking and come away tired but satisfied you have helped preserve a priceless part of America's heritage.

To see captions and full-sized versions of the pictures, click on a picture "thumbnail".

Hastings Cutoff
Near Aragonite, UT
Hastings Cutoff Placing Carsonite
Coyote Creek, WY
Coyote Creek
Rocky Ford
Malad River, UT
Placing Post
Lakepoint, UT
Placing Post
Near Grantsville, UT
Near Grantsville, UT
Timpie Point, UT
Salt Desert
Near Donner Spring, UT
Placing Marker
Salt Desert, UT
In the Ruts
East Canyon, UT


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Revised: 12 Apr 2007


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