NEW SOUTHERN ROUTE PLAN
“Oregon Trail” Will Also Be Run—Rock Highway Progress—Pathfinding Acts as Stimulus.
Another far-flung trail across the continent is to be routed and plotted, run and mapped this Summer by A. L. Westgard, pathfinder of the present “Trail to Sunset,” “Overland Trail,” “Midland Trail,” and “Northwest Trail.” In fact, this searcher of the untrodden places who takes his heritage from Boone and Clark, Lewis and the host of other pioneers, will really lay out two new trails before the snow flies—the “Oregon Trail,” which will follow closely the famous route which went by that name in frontier days, and the “Southern Route” from the lower Atlantic States westward to join the “Trail to Sunset” in Arizona. His plan is to start from New York about the end of the present month and swing a wide circle to the north and as far west as the Kansas line, rounding back to Indianapolis in time to join and pilot the Pacific Coast tour of Hoosier manufacturers, leaving Indianapolis early in July.
On the accompanying map is shown the route not only of the new transcontinental trails to be mapped this Summer, but also those of the trails which Mr. Westgard has already covered and which have been reduced to strip maps by the American Automobile Association. Hardly more than a century has passed since rude tracks were painfully trodden across the continent by the pioneers of history; yet a change of conditions, almost unbelievable even in hustling America, has taken place to make possible the laying out of routes feasible for the motor car in the place that was a wilderness. Where the ox-hauled prairie schooner plodded not so many years ago, scores of motor tourists now make the trip from ocean to ocean.
In the days of ox team and prairie schooner the plains and mountains were crossed along the lines of least resistance. The pioneers who first went over the “Oregon Trail” and the “Santa Fé Trail” were the first to leave permanent marks to guide and assist those who would follow. Travel over the Santa Fé trail began about 1822 from Little Rock. Ark., and followed the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers west. A few years later, however, the trail started at Franklin, Mo. Travel and trade by this route, which crossed the Rockies by Raton Pass, reached its height in the sixties. The Oregon trail of the early days started from Kansas City, Mo., followed the valley of the Platte River, crossed Southern Wyoming and Northern Utah, and, skirting the Snake River in Idaho, crossed Oregon into Washington.
Automobiling has meant a rehabilitation for some of the historic pathways across the continent. This is a part of the interesting work which Mr. Westgard is performing. His existence, while on the road, is a strenuous one. In the first place, he is constantly occupied during the running time in making a careful sketch map of the road and region. This is not a distance chart merely, but goes into details of topography, conditions, safety, and geologic and zoologic surroundings. Several times a day he may be called upon to address village or town meetings, some times impromptu affairs on the street corners, at other times more formal gatherings. Then, at night, after a day sufficiently crowded to satisfy most men, he frequently attends some other citizens’ gathering, Chamber of Commerce, or local organization, and tells that particular community just what it should and must do in order to improve its roads and “put itself on the map,” transcontinentally speaking.
This kind of campaigning has borne fruit, so that not only has the three A’s been enabled to publish maps for the guidance of those who wish to make the cross continent journey as a whole or in part, but the conditions along the ' way have been vastly improved; permanent bridges have been built, roads have been relaid, hustling road associations have been formed, and an impetus given to highway matters in many States.
Some 12,000 miles will be covered by Westgard in the trip of this Summer. He will follow the same methods as heretofore, endeavoring to rouse the people all along the route to the importance of good roads and touring conditions. As usual he will travel in three distinct capacities: as A. A. A. field representative; in the same capacity for the Lincoln Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, as the great $10,000,000 rock highway project is really called; and as special agent to the United States Office of Public Roads.
Concerning the Lincoln Highway plan, which is ultimately to unite the Atlantic and Pacific by a permanent roadway, Mr. Westgard had some inside information to impart last week. Some $6,000,000 of the $10,000,000 required for materials alone have already been subscribed, it seems. A sum equal to the cost of materials will be required to build the road, but this the States and counties along the route are expected to furnish, either in cash or in labor. The undertaking is an enormous one, as may be seen from the statistics of the materials required. Thus, between Denver and Salt Lake City 10,367 carloads of cement will be needed to construct the road. There are stretches along the route, according to Mr. Westgard, which will demand little work in order to make them suitable for a motor road of this importance. In Nevada, for instance, there is a stretch of some 200 miles, he says, of natural gravel or broken stone, which appears to be capable of sustaining any traffic in its present condition, and probably will not need any construction beyond the building of an occasional culvert.