Oregon Trail #5 Windlass Hill and Ash Hollow

Windlass Hill

220px-L-differentialwindeThe windlass is an apparatus for moving heavy weights. Typically, a windlass consists of a horizontal cylinder, which is rotated by the turn of a crank or belt. A winch is affixed to one or both ends, and a cable or rope is wound around the winch, pulling a weight attached to the opposite end. At Windlass Hill each wagon was lowered down the steep grade with the help of a rope secured at the top. While the descent down Windlass Hill was considered scary by the emigrants, due to the slope of the hill, they were willing to risk crashing their wagons, losing belongings, and breaking bones in order to take advantage of the spring, shade & beauty of Ash Hollow.

In the words of Howard Stansbury “we were obliged from the steepness of the road to let the wagons down by ropes”—a significant undertaking—”but the labor of a dozen men for a few days would make the descent easy and safe.”

Trail Guide demonstrates how to get down Windlass Hill

Trail Guide demonstrates how to get down Windlass Hill


The fourth graders each held on to a rope that was looped around a tree root. They were slowly and carefully lowered as they backed down a steep hill.

Our windlass was a tree root

Our windlass was a tree root



The Oregon Trail Emigrants came down Windlass Hill and into Ash Hollow. Ash Hollow would have offered fresh water from the spring, wood, and a place to camp near the Platte River.IMG_9266

Here the children again gave up some of their “food” before following the trail on to “the rock landmarks”

This entry was posted in Frugal Fun, Oregon Trail Big Day, Volunteer activities and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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