Sixth Crossing: Mormon Trail Site, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Lander, Wyoming, is the place where the Willie handcart company encountered the first rescue wagons in the fall of 1856. The location received the name Sixth Crossing because it was the spot where the Mormon Trail crossed the Sweetwater River for the sixth time.
The Sixth Crossing: Mormon Trail Site is the place where the Willie handcart company, composed of about 400 Latter-day Saint emigrants from the British Isles, encountered the first rescue wagons from George D. Grant’s relief party on October 21, 1856. Westbound pioneers along the Oregon-Mormon-California Trail reached the Sweetwater River at this location, a popular spot to refresh after about 16 miles (26 kilometers) with limited water, and crossed it for the sixth time. They would cross the Sweetwater three more times along the trail. Today people visit the crossing as a place of reverence, remembrance, and gratitude. The Sixth Crossing area features a visitors’ center 3 miles (5 kilometers) northeast of the river crossing that recounts the journey and eventual rescue of the Willie company.
On October 19, 1856, a severe snowstorm hit the plains of Wyoming. Despite these harsh conditions, the Willie handcart company continued to push and pull toward their sixth crossing of the frigid Sweetwater River. Two days later, the company encountered relief wagons sent from Salt Lake City, providing them with desperately needed food, clothing, and wagons. In their haggard condition, the suffering Willie company rejoiced and thanked God. But even amidst the rescue relief, a number of the company died at Sixth Crossing. The rescuers helped the survivors travel the remaining 270 miles (435 kilometers) to their destination in Salt Lake City, including the grueling Rocky Ridge to Rock Creek Hollow and the South Pass on the Continental Divide. Arriving by November 9, the surviving company members received donated provisions from local Relief Society organizations and were placed in warm homes. Today, Latter-day Saints participate in trek reenactments during summer months to remember the faith of the handcart pioneers and their rescuers. For information about organizing a trek for a family or Church group at this historic site, click or tap here.