From the late 1840s through 1860s an exodus of more than 70,000 Mormons passed by here on their way to their “New Zion” in Utah. Starting from Nauvoo, Illinois in February 1846, the first group of at least 13,000 Mormons crossed into Iowa to escape religious persecution, then spent the next winter in the area of present-day Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1847, Brigham Young led an advance party of 143 men, 2 women, and 3 children along the Platte River. At Fort Bridger, Wyoming they departed from the Oregon Trail to head southwest to the Great Salt Lake. Thousands of other Mormons soon followed. Today, a marked 1,624-mile auto tour route closely parallels their historic trek.
Many Mormon emigrants wrote diaries to describe their experiences. After arriving, the Mormon pioneers set up communities and ferry crossings along the trail to assist later wagon trains going to and from Utah.
From 1856-60, many European converts walked more than 1,200 miles to Salt Lake City pushing and pulling handcarts loaded with 500 pounds of supplies. After 1860, the Mormon church sponsored oxen-drawn wagons to bring emigrants to the “New Zion.”