Walking West with Robert Campbell

Mile 1515- South Pass

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The South Pass is one of the most impor­tant moun­tain pass­es in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Native Amer­i­cans had known about the cross­ing for ages, how­ev­er Euro­pean-Amer­i­cans were not so well informed. Lewis and Clark attempt­ed to cross the con­ti­nen­tal divide at the more north­ern pass, if one can call it that, at the Bit­ter­root Moun­tains. This treach­er­ous jour­ney almost took the lives of all involved. It was not until 1812 that the first white man was said to have used the South Pass. Many trav­el­ers did not even real­ize that once they head­ed south past Inde­pen­dence they were begin­ning a slow ascent of the con­ti­nen­tal divide, because the incline was so sub­tle. With­out a cross­ing point that was so easy to nav­i­gate as the South Pass was, it is pos­si­ble that the Unit­ed States would not have been able to main­tain pos­ses­sion of ter­ri­to­ry to the west.

The South Pass, with BBC doc­u­men­tary pre­sen­ter Alan McFar­land in the foreground