Mountains, Sinks and Deserts: The Physical Geography of the California Trail

Lesson Plan Content
Today’s students have no idea of the feat it was to travel across the vast expanses of the United States before trains, planes, and automobiles. Students need to appreciate how the physical geography of modern-day Nevada and California greatly impacted travel to California in the 1800s.The terrain will not only determine the routes that would be feasible but also the technology needed to make these routes more accessible by others when building roads and railroads. In this lesson, students will learn about the physical geography of the trail to California in order to better understand the experiences of the travelers
Carol Carney Warren
Grade Range: 
2 class periods
Lesson Materials
Teacher Instructions: 
National Geography Standards: 
1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information
3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people places, and environments on Earth's surface
4: The physical and human characteristics of places
7: The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface
17: How to apply geography to interpret the past