The California Trail was a trail that spanned over 2000 miles for immigrants as they moved westward for gold or the rich lands of California. Immigrants took animals with them such as horses or oxen but as they moved along the trail they saw many animals that were native to that region. Some of these came to have special meaning to the immigrant’s, others were terrifying as they traveled across the trail. The states that the California Trail spanned were California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
The California Trail Interpretive Center showcases many of the animals along the California Historic Trail. Some of these are well known, such as bison. The historic trails, such as the California Historic Trail, saw bison in the 1800’s as the immigrants moved across. Other herbivores they saw were elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats and moose The bison were used for meat and for their hides. These were used to keep the immigrants warm and to feed them when fresh meat was needed.
Some animals found along the California Trail were:
- Bald Eagles
- California Condors
- Grizzly Bears
- Grey Wolves
- Black Bears
- Mountain Lions
Carnivores or predators such as wolves, bears, jaquars, mountain lions and coyotes were also scattered along the California Trail. Jaquars were plentiful during the California Trail. Currently there is only one living in the United States. Smaller mammals such as prairie dogs and jackrabbits were also to be found along the trail.
Birds were to be found everywhere along the trail. From Bald Eagles to Hawks to song birds, the travelers got to experience birds. Birds are a heartening sight as you walk or ride along and the view seems to never change. It can also be a way to find eggs that could be used for food along the trail.
When they were near water sources they would fish. There were many different types of fish, some more common than others, such as catfish or codfish. Immigrants could stop by a lake, stream or river, set up camp and fish for extra food. The animals were essential for the survival of the travelers along the trail.