US Route 89 Diversion: Salt River Pass
In today’s world of high speed automobile travel it is hard to imagine how important mountain passes were to to the pioneers who crossed the Rocky Mountains during the westward migration of the 19th century. In southwestern Wyoming, US Route 89 crosses between the Gannett Hills and the Salt River Range through Salt River Pass. This pass was on the Lander Cut Off, an alternative road from the Emigrant Trail (the collective name for the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails).
I can imagine the wagon trains stopping at Salt River Pass to gaze down into Star Valley just as we can today. They would have then proceeded down to where the town of Afton stands today and turned west toward Oregon and California. The Lander Cut Off, which was the first government road project in the west, opened in 1859 and remained in use until 1912, when automobiles made it obsolete.
Salt River Pass is also a divide in the watershed. From this point water flows north to the Snake River and thence to the Pacific Ocean or south to the Bear River and into the Great Salt Lake.
There is a parking area at the top of Salt River Pass at an elevation of 7630 feet. It is one of the most scenic view points between Salt Lake City and Jackson and well-worth a few minutes to contemplate the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and to remember the pioneers who crossed here.
To learn more about the driving to Salt River Pass, go to the Montpelier to Jackson Road Trip Guide on the US Route 89 Appreciation Society website.
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