First Jedediah Smith Trail 1822 — 1824

Map of first Jedediah Smith Trail Map of first Jedediah Smith Trail
Map of first Jedediah Smith Trail

In 2009 I follow the trails of Jedediah Smith in the years 1822—1824. I will also follow his trails the next couple of years until he was killed in 1831 by Comanches. At first Jedediah was only a member of Leavenworth’s troups, who fighted the Arikara Indians to secure the trading along the Missouri. The result was not, what the fur company has expected. But Jedediah proved to be more than a hunter and received the command for a small group for beaver hunting. In 1822 the starting point of this expedition was at Ft. Kiowa, a bit north of nowadays Chamberlain, SD. He went to the west south of the Badlands to the southern slopes of the Black Hills. I make a real stop at the Badlands to explore this region and another in the Black Hills. I also use the opportunity to visit Mt. Rushmore. Then I travel on to the Big Horn Mountains. Along the Big Horn River I reach the Wind River Valley and follow Wind River up to the region of nowadays Dubois, WY. Jedediah spent the winter of 1823 with the Crows in this area. February 1824 he tried like Wilson Price Hunt to reach Union Pass, but the deep snow forced him to return. What at first glance looked like a fail turned out to be very valuable. He learned from the Indians that there is another and much easier pass more to the south. So he followed the Wind River back and went south until he reached the Sweetwater. Now he was close to South Pass, which already has been discovered by Robert Stuart a couple of years ago. But Jedediah was the one, who made this pass so well known to the public and defined one of the major points for the later Oregon Trail.

He spent the whole spring and summer in this area hunting beaver along the rivers. There are no records of this time, so it is not possible to retrace his route there. Fall 1824 he went on, first going again over South Pass. Then he followed the Big Sandy River and Green River to the area of nowadays Rock Springs, WY. He passed the Flaming Gorge area and went on west crossing the Bear River Divide and reached the area of nowadays Evanston. He followed the Bear River up north and reached the sources of the Blackfoot River. Now he followed the Blackfoot up to the Snake River near Idaho Falls, ID. There I spend one day at the Craters of the Moon, before I am following again Jedediah’s Trail driving up north into the Lemhi Valley. Crossing Lemhi Pass and Gibbons Pass I also cross the Continental Divide. Along the Bitterroot River I reach Missoula. The last leg of Jedediah’s Trail is following Clarks Fork up to Flathead Post, where he spent the winter 1824. The exact location is not known, but most likely it is the place of Saleesh House, a couple of miles before I reach Thompson Falls. This is the end of my this years trail and I have to get ready for my 2300 mile journey back to Pittsburgh.

The daily trails are in preparations