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National Oregon/California Trail Center

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This is Fred Ball for Zions Bank, speaking on business.

Since explorers and frontiersmen first ventured west in the late 18th century, the nation's younger half has steadily grown into a strong region of vibrant markets. And much of that growth can be attributed to the early settlers who left their homes in the east with hope that their westward journey would bring a better future.

But in order to reach their destination across land, they had only one choice--The Oregon Trail. It was a route pitted with challenges but one that would eventually become the largest voluntary migration in history, guiding more than a half million people to a land of new promises.

One in 10 pioneers died along the way. Many walked the entire 2,000 miles barefoot. And they all faced the possibility of dying from cholera, poor sanitation orÑinterestinglyÑaccidental gunshots.

The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 brought an end to traveling The Oregon Trail. But remnants of the journey, including actual wagon ruts, remain, and much of that can be seen today at the National Oregon/California Trail Center located in Montpelier, Idaho in the Bear Lake Valley.

Situated directly on the trail, the center opened in 1999, following 13 years of dreaming, planning and fundraising from community residents. It is now a living history interpretive center that features real people acting as pioneers, mountain men and traders.

The center includes a Rails and Trails Museum, a multimedia exhibit showing various trail sites, a wagon-train encampment re-creation, an art gallery, a gun shop and livery stable and a gift shop.

Visitors can experience what it was like for early settlers who traveled westÑgetting up at sunrise, preparing meals, hitching up the animals. They'll experience the challenges pioneers faced and even the foods they ate. They can also learn what drove people westward and what they were willing to do to make their dreams come true.

The National Oregon/California Trail Center is currently conducting classroom excursions through the end of May. It will open for the summer tourist season on Memorial Day weekend, allowing visitors to tour seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For Zions Bank, I'm Fred Ball. I'm speaking on business.

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