In the years (1812-1840) the fur trade was active, fur trappers, usually followed streams looking for beaver. Among the fur traders were Jedidah Smith, Kit Carson, David Thompson, and Thomas Fitzpatrick; they discovered and named many of the mountains and rivers in the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest. They often kept diaries of their travels and were available as guides and consultants when the trail started to become open for general travel.
A majority of the mountain men were hired by the British and United States fur companies where they would trap beavers and sell their skins. A good beaver skin could bring up to $4.00 at a time when a man's wage was often $1.00/day. Up to 3,000 Mountain men were trappers and explorers roaming the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 to the early 1840s. They usually traveled in small groups for mutual support and protection.
Following the Oregon Trail was not easy due to the conditions of the rivers. The eastern route proved to be rather unpredictable since its waters were muddy, shallow and crooked.
The fur trade business wound down to a very low level just as the Oregon trail traffic seriously began around 1840.
Source: Oregon Trail – History – Fur Traders, Trappers and Explorers
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