Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network


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River crossings, 1850, George Shepard


PLATTE RIVER (Wyoming): In 1850, George Shepard, travelling with a group to California, paid $4 per wagon and 25 cents per horse to use the Mormon ferry at the upper crossing of the Platte River (Casper, Wyoming). The river at that location was estimated to be not more than 20 rods (330 feet) wide and between about 2 to 6 feet deep.

GREEN RIVER (Wyoming): Shepard reported the cost of this ferry was $5 per wagon and $1 per horse. He estimated the river to be about 16 rods (264 feet) wide and about 9 feet deep at the deepest. The river had risen 2 feet the previous 2 days. He was told the charge to cross would increase if the river rose any more.

Echo Creek (Utah)is rather small is size. It was crossed numerous times and most crossings were bad (meaning the banks were steep and/or the creek bottom was soft mud).

WEBER RIVER (Hennefer, Utah): Shepard's group reached the Weber River by Hennifer on June 22nd. He estimated the river to be 4 rods (66 feet) wide and 3 feet deep, but running very swiftly. The Mormon ferry there was a raft. The charge was $3 per wagon. Shepard's company tried to avoid the ferry. A rope was tied to the front wagon tongue and more ropes were tied to the rear of the wagon to help stabilize and guide the wagon. The first wagon almost tipped over in the stream. Men jumped in the water to save the wagon and its contents. They chose to pay the ferry charge for the rest of the wagons. The horses swam across.

East Canyon Creek was crossed many times. Wagons and animals got stuck in the mud crossing the last time at Mormon Flat.

WEBER RIVER (Ogden, Utah): Ferry charge was again $3 per wagon. The animals had to swim across.

BEAR RIVER (Hampton's Ford, by Tremonton, Utah): $5 was paid to ferry the wagons across. The $1 cost per horse was avoided by swimming across.

MALAD RIVER (Tremonton, Utah): Ten miles north and west of Hampton's Ford was a toll bridge spanning the Malad River. Shepard estimated the width to be a rod (16 1/2 feet) wide. The Malad River has perpendicular banks and a muddy bottom making a crossing very difficult. A detour of several miles was necessary to find the one location where a crossing was even possible. The $1 toll per wagon was reluctantly paid.

George Shepard's group paid Mormon's $17 per wagon to use their ferries and bridge between Casper, Wyoming and Tremonton, Utah. Some costs for animals added to the cost. There was universal dislike for such costs. Some emigrants crossed streams on their own and were successful. Others lost wagons, supplies, and some even lost their lives in the crossings. Consequently, most paid the money and enjoyed a safe crossing. Much of the money collected by the Mormons at water crossings went into the Perpetual Emigration Fund, a revolving fund devoted to helping poor members, mostly Europeans, emigrate to the Great Basin.