Archway Monument is a tribute to the road over which it transcends. Now called Route 80, it was originally an Indian trail, which became the Oregon trail, which became the Lincoln Highway and now Route 80.
Between 1841 and 1866 following the ancient trail that the Indians had shown to the fur trappers in the early 1800’s, 350,000 men, women and children hoping to find a better life on the other side of the American continent traveled this route.
The route followed the Platte and North Platte Rivers. It ultimately led to a valley where covered wagons could easily cross the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. It was one of the largest voluntary mass migrations ever.
Five days after the celebration at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, on May 10, 1869, where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met to form the first transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific Railroad began regular train service to the West. Almost immediately, the covered wagon migration across the Great Platte River slowed to a trickle.
Trains were economical and fast. Emigrants lined up to buy one-way, cross-country tickets that cost only $50.00 each, and the trip only took a week. By the 1880s, the Union Pacific was carrying nearly one million people west each year–three times as many as those who had come across the continent in 25 years of covered wagon travel.
In 1912, Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Car Fisher proposed creating the country’s first coast-to-coast highway. A year later the 3,389 mile long Lincoln Highway was laid out. It followed the Great Platte River Road (Oregon and California Trail) through the heart of the nation.
Interstate 80, America’s first transcontinental interstate, traces its way along the Great Platte River Road and the old Lincoln Highway. It goes from New York to San Francisco (I always thought route 40 was the first continental highway – I will have to research that).