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The Meek Cutoff was a wagon trail that branched off from the Oregon Trail in what is now the U.S. state of Oregon in 1845. It became a significant part of the trail, connecting to the Barlow Road, which opened in 1846, permitting passage across the Cascade Range.

Contents

History

A sketch of a covered wagon

Stephen Meek, the older brother of Joe Meek, was hired as wagon pilot by a large group of emigrants seeking a shortcut across the middle of Oregon to the Willamette Valley. Some 200 wagons and 1,000 people turned off the primary Oregon Trail at present-day Vale and followed Meek to the west where no wagons had traveled before. Samuel Parker entered in his diary on August 24, 1845:

Tuck [sic] what is called Meeks cutoff

and later added

A bad cutoff for all that tuck [sic] it.

Meek led the wagon train west through the Malheur Mountains and the Harney Valley to Wagontire Mountain where no water could be found. The desperate emigrants turned north in an effort to escape the desert and found life-saving water at Buck Creek and the South Fork of the Crooked River. Somewhere in their wanderings, members of the wagon train reportedly found some gold nuggets, which led to the legend of the fabled Blue Bucket gold mine. The wagon train struggled northward to Sherars Falls where the emigrants were forced to winch their wagons over the torrent of the Deschutes River. The starving and exhausted emigrants finally reached The Dalles in October, having suffered 23 known deaths and probably many more. The blazing of the Meek Cutoff led to later wagon roads and the settlement of the eastern and central regions of Oregon.[1]

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Coordinates: 43°58′44″N 117°15′31″W / 43.97886°N 117.25871°W / 43.97886; -117.25871

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