Preserving the westward way

  • The Oregon Trail near Guernsey, Wyo.

    Mike McClure photo
  The National Park Service wants to preserve everything from vistas to wagon ruts, graves and campsites along 13,000 miles of historic Western trails. A plan completed last fall provides guidelines for protecting the Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express trails. But saving a trail system that crosses 12 states isn't easy, says Jere Krakow, superintendent of the Long Distance Trails Office. From Salt Lake City, he coordinates preservation efforts among state and federal agencies, private landowners and historical associations. "It provides some continuity and consistency between everyone," he says. Although the plan's scope is as broad as the vistas it hopes to preserve, Krakow says his staff of three can only do so much. Presently his agency is completing brochures for the Pony Express and California trails, compiling information for a computer-mapping system, and negotiating agreements with various agencies to erect auto-tour route signs along highways. Dave Welch, president of the Oregon-California Trails Association, is encouraged by the plan and its call to preserve viewscapes along the trails. However, Welch would like the plan to be more ambitious. "It doesn't include many of the important cut-offs and alternate routes. But we'll keep working to get them included."

You can read the National Park Service Plan at or call the Long Distance Trails Office at 801/539-4095.

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