California Gold Rush wagon train
(Source: Library of Congress)
Many people came to
California by covered wagon. This was a long, difficult
Travelers needed to travel across difficult
land. They needed to cross the desert and climb the
mountains with their wagons, mules and oxen.
It was very important that the travelers left early
enough so not to get caught in the Sierra Mountains
during the winter. Many were aware of the tragic fate of
the Donner party in 1846.
Coming by land with covered wagons had its advantages. Travelers could pack a lot more gear. They would pack a
cooking stove, plates and cups, and forks and knives.
They would carry enough food and supplies for a 6 month
journey. Food was usually bacon, ham, rice, dried fruits,
bread, flour, sugar, rice, molasses, butter, coffee and
Oxen-pulled Wagon (Source: Library of Congress)
Overland travelers would
take tools for mining, farming, and fixing the wagon.
They also took guns and ammunition, and clothes and
All of this had to be carried in a wagon
about 9 feet long and 4 feet wide.
Some travelers also brought cattle and chickens to
This was a difficult route. People were often poorly
prepared. Many people died during the trip from illness,
starvation and drowning.