Saturday, April 23, 2016

Devil's Gate

Devil’s Gate is still open--with a giveaway for you


by Susan Page Davis

A landmark for travelers on the Oregon Trail, Devil’s gate is a narrow cleft where the Sweetwater River flows between the granite rocks. It is close to Independence Rock, which was sometimes considered the halfway point.





Devil's Gate at low water, 2013, by Wehwal, Creative Commons licenses


Wagon train leaders liked to camp at Independence Rock by July 4, knowing they should make it through to their destination before winter. Sometimes trains would pause a day or two at Independence Rock, and the travelers would do laundry, bake, and make an outing of going to view Devil’s Gate.

Circled Wagon Trains at Independence Rock, with Devil's Gate in the distance, drawing by William Henry Jackson, circa 1870


At its base, the “gate” is too narrow for wagons to pass beside the river, so the trail bypassed it, but emigrants often hiked to see it. Many waded through the gap in the river or climbed the cleft ridge, known as the Sweetwater Rocks, and carved their names or initials. Bighorn sheep were seen climbing the rocks nearby in the mid-1800s.

The chasm is only 30 feet wide in the bottom, at its narrowest point. The cleft is about 1,500 feet long and 370 feet deep. At the top, the rocks are about 300 feet apart. It can be seen from about 15 miles away if you are coming from the east. From a distance, it appears as a slot in the ridge.


Looking West from the rocks above Devil's Gate, showing the plains of the Sweetwater and the Oregon Trail; 1870 by William Henry Jackson

An Indian legend says a large beast with huge tusks tore the passage through the rock when pursued by hunters. Scientists, however, say the river carved it over time through the sedimentary rock. But it seems odd that the river ate through the rocks instead of flowing around them. The wagon road takes the flatter, easier route not far away.

Trading posts sprang up at Devil’s Gate and Independence Rock in the early 1850s, to cater to the emigrant trains. Travelers could find a few basic supplies there, and if they were lucky, trade worn-out animals for fresh stock. The earliest known photograph of this landmark was taken in 1858 by Samuel C. Mills.
Mill's 1858 photo, public domain


As the wagon trains grew fewer, the cabins of the Devil’s Gate post were abandoned by 1856. The following winter, desperate members of the Mormon handcart parties found them during a severe blizzard and took shelter.


photo by Ryan Reeder, 2004, Creative Commons Licenses
By 1872, a hunting camp was established near Devil’s Gate by a French Canadian, Tom Sun. Within ten years, Sun’s family had a thriving ranch with thousands of head of cattle. The Sun Family Ranch operated for more than 100 years. In the 1990s, they sold part of it to the Mormon church, which now operates a visitor center there to tell the story of the handcart pioneers. It includes a reconstruction of the 1850s trading post.


Devil's Gate, by MPlark, Creative Commons Licenses

In one of my books, The Oregon Escort, the main characters visit Devil’s Gate. To enter the giveaway for the 3-novel series anthology, Wyoming Brides, leave a comment and include your contact information below. E-book readers may choose an e-book of The Oregon Escort instead.

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. Her newest books The Seafaring Women of the Vera B. and The Cowboy’s Bride Collection, which was recently named to the Publisher’s Weekly Bestselling Religious Fiction List. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com .



29 comments:

  1. An interesting post, Susan - thank you!! Enjoyed the pictures also. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of 'Wyoming Brides'!!

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    1. Thanks! I loved finding these old pictures.

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  2. Hi Susan! I have read several of your books and I really enjoyed them. The history lesson was fascinating...Thank you for the chance to win your book.
    dblaser(at)windstream(dot)net

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    1. You're welcome Diane! Thanks for coming by.

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  3. I loved learning another part of our U.S. history and I hope to read your story centered around Devil's Gate. Thank you for sharing!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Connie. It's not the main point of the story, but it's in there.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this. This period of history is so interesting. It seems there is always something else to learn. I would love to win this book.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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  5. Wow, Devils Gate is so beautiful even though it has a bit of a scary name. I found your post fascinating and enjoy learning more. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity I would love to read Wyoming Brides.

    Cnnamongirl at aol dot com

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    1. There are other places in Wyoming with diabolical names, like Devil's Tower. I'm not sure why the settlers named them that, but it's interesting.

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  6. I loved your post, Susan...so interesting! Thank you for the giveaway opportunity.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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  7. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of "Wyoming Brides". I love the historical novels and the collections books are the best!

    wfnren at aol dot com

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  8. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom.

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  9. Great bit of history. I bet I will learn more by reading the books. fishingjan[at]aol[dot]com

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    1. Ha, ha, is that a hint? I'm sure you would enjoy them. :)

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  10. I love learning about history and this review/lesson was great. I love the old west. Thanks for the giveaway and the opportunity to enter. Good luck everyone.
    princessdebbie1_2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  11. Glad you took part, Debbie! I'll keep this giveaway open several days if other people want to enter.

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  12. Thanks so much for teaching us more about the history of the west. Thanks for the giveaway and the opportunity to win.
    bettimace at gmail dot com

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  13. You're welcome, Betti! I love studying up on the Old West. I'm working on a book set in Old Arizona now, and it's fascinating.

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  14. I always look forward to your posts, Susan, and enjoyed learning about Devil's Gate!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

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  15. Thanks, Britney! I can't imagine how the pioneers felt when they first saw the wonders along the Oregon Trail!

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  16. I live in Oregon and am always fascinated with history in my area of the country! Thanks for the historical tidbits and pictures & the book giveaway chance :-)

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Trixi, my husband is from Oregon, and I lived out there for a while after we first married. Thanks for your comment!

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  17. This was interesting and informative. I loved having the photos. Thanks for the giveaway!!!
    bcrug(at)myfairpoint(dot)net

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    1. Glad to do it, Connie. Thanks for taking part.

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  18. And the winner is: Debbie Clatterbuck. Congratulations, Debbie! I will e-mail you. Thanks to all who took part in the discussion.

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