The National Frontier Trails Museum is a wonderful look at the routes taken by pioneers in the 1800s seeking new lives out west. The Sante Fe Trail was a 800-mile route that began in 1821 as a trade route with Mexico. Trade goods moved in both directions.
The Oregon Trail was 2,000-miles long and took 8 months to travel. It began as a trail for trappers, but by 1843 settlers followed it to the Northwest and to California. Independence was a frontier town of a few hundred people, but in the spring that number was increased by thousands of emigrants. They came for supplies and information and leaders before heading west.
Almost 500,000 people followed the western migration trails from 1840-860. Travelers took many provisions with them for the trip and the destination. As the travel became more difficult, more and more things were discarded along the way.
The completion of the railroad in 1869 foretold the end of wagon trains.