The Oregon Trail , 1869
Oil on canvas
Butler Institute of American Art
In The Oregon Trail Bierstadt depicts a band of emigrants in a spectacular allegory of westward expansion. Under a dramatic orange-red sky the travelers trek into the western sun, which tinges the high cliffs as it sets beyond a grove of ancient trees. They pass animal bones and a broken stove which testify to previous unlucky travelers. Native American tepees in the distance are reminders of a constant menace.