Reasons for Westward Expansion

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   Gateway      Appalachian      economic      Erie      fertile      gold      immigrants      land      loggers      north to south      Ohio      Oregon     rocky      slaves      steamboat      upriver      weather   

The desire for was one of the main reasons people migrated west into new territories. As more and more arrived from Europe, the population of the eastern states grew rapidly. The new immigrants wanted land to farm, but most of the farmable land east of the Mountains was already taken. Many New England farmers joined the western movement as well. Barely able to grow enough food to feed their families on the poor, New England soil, farmers were drawn west by the promise of cheap land.

Land was not the only motive pulling people west. The discovery of in California in 1848 encouraged thousands of prospectors to head for west coast in what became known as the California Gold Rush. Midwestern forests attracted into the western movement, and runaway joined the movement not only for economic opportunity but for a chance to live as free men.

Most pioneers traveled west in horse or ox-drawn wagons, traveling in large groups for protection against Indians, robbers and wild animals. For those crossing the Rocky Mountains, was the greatest danger. They stuck closely to established routes like the Trail and the Sante Fe trail, so as not to get lost and caught in the mountains when the winter weather set in. Since most U.S. rivers flow from the , the rivers were not much help to the early western pioneers. The River might have been useful in the early part of the journey. One of the few U.S. rivers flowing from east to west, the Ohio River is often referred to as the " to the West".

Although pioneers heading west could not often take advantage of river travel, for those living east of the Mississippi, river travel was becoming faster and easier. Robert Fulton's invention of the meant that people and goods could travel against the current. This new ability led to a surge in canal building. One of these man-made waterways, the Canal, allowed people and goods to travel by water from the Atlantic Coast and New York City all the way to Ohio. Within 50 years, a canal would connect Lake Erie to the Ohio river, extending the possibility of water travel even farther westward.