Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey” as Want to Read:
The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  9,621 ratings  ·  1,738 reviews
In the bestselling tradition of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, Rinker Buck's "The Oregon Trail" is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules--which hasn't been done in a century--that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made ...more
Hardcover, 451 pages
Published June 30th 2015 by Simon Schuster
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Oregon Trail, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Serena I was able to figure out 2011 as well from his mention of the tornado in Joplin, MO.
Lisa I thought it was confusing, too. The way I understood it was that the Trail Pup was okay for being pulled behind the wagon, but it wouldn't work being…moreI thought it was confusing, too. The way I understood it was that the Trail Pup was okay for being pulled behind the wagon, but it wouldn't work being hitched to a mule alone. Hence, they could still take it for storage, but needed the mule to ride in case of an emergency.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,621 ratings  ·  1,738 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was such a fun travelogue. Rinker Buck got the wild idea to buy some mules and a covered wagon and ride halfway across the country, following the old Oregon Trail route that hundreds of thousands of pioneers crossed in the 1800s. He started his nearly 2,000-mile journey in Missouri, crossed into Kansas and Nebraska, trekked across Wyoming and Idaho, and finally arrived in Oregon.

It was a completely lunatic notion. Except for the occasional faux reenactments staged for tourists by Wyoming ou
The Oregon Trail makes me immediately think of...

but let's be serious. It was a big deal to earlier settlers. A lot of them didn't even make it to the end. Fast forward hundreds of years and two brothers embark on a great journey. Covered wagons, mules and nothing but history awaiting them. Reding about their trip across the same trail settlers took and stopping to soak in the rich history was an excellent read. I learned a great deal, I had no idea about and the pictures of some of their stops
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Didn't die of dysentry, but nearly died of boredom. As someone who, yes, played that 'Oregon Trail' game, I was so looking forward to this book. Man decides he wants to travel along the Oregon Trail? In an actual wagon pulled by mules? Sure, why not?
Sadly, this book really, really, REALLY needed a better editor. It's a story of the journey, the history of the Oregon Trail, a memoir of working with his brother (who came on the trip), various reminisces of his father (who used to do somewhat simi
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I should be upfront and say that this review of “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey” may be skewed because the author, Rinker Buck, did something in writing it that I have always wanted to do. He took a piece of history, researched it, and then set out to live it. This is basically a historian’s dream.

There are actually two parts to the book: the journey itself and the history of the Oregon Trail. I’ll begin with the journey. The time and effort Mr. Buck took in researching and developing
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
This entertaining, often enthralling, mix of history, humor, travelogue, family memoir, and no holds barred social commentary reminds me of my favorite Bill Bryson books--especially A Walk in the Woods about Bryson’s (mis)adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. When Rinker Buck discovered that large stretches of the Oregon Trail still exist, he had romantic visions of a back to basics journey across the western half of the continent and began obsessively and meticulously preparing for a mule-dr ...more
Jennie Menke
May 09, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No offense, but, MY GOD, I wanted this book to end. And it just wouldn't. It went on and on and on and on. I listened to it on Audible and the reader was just fine. Initially I really liked the book. As minutes turned to hours and hours turned to days, though, I just really started to dislike (intensely) the author.

The information on the trail and wagon travel is mostly interesting and well researched. If that's what the book stuck to, I probably wouldn't quibble. However, there were several th
“When I strike the open plains, something happens. I’m home. I breathe differently. That love of great spaces, of rolling open country like the sea, it’s the grand passion of my life.” – Willa Cather, (epigraph to The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey)


Journalist Rinker Buck has long possessed an adventurous soul. When he was fifteen and his brother Kern was seventeen, they bought a 1946 Piper Cub plane for $300 and rebuilt it in the family barn. With Kern, already a licensed
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-bio, audiobook
2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book.

I mostly enjoyed the author's account of his journey along the trail, especially the parts about the mules and dog, but the multitude of tangents varied greatly with how interesting they were (or were not). Also could have done without the author's numerous political and societal opinions, which make you question his ability to intelligently research and assimilate other material used for the book.

If read as a light-hearted memoir instead of a factual
I had thought this book would be as enjoyable as A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, with both authors challenging themselves to complete two very different historical trails along with their similarly crazy and risk-taking cohorts.  I am a walker,  so I could somewhat empathize with Bill Bryson, and he's at least  entertaining.  But...

I can't begin to imagine Rinker wanting to spend $30,000 to get together a three-mule team and a covered wagon to make all the pr
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2017
Well into middle age Rinker Buck, his brother Nick and his dog Olive Oyl decide to see the American West in a covered wagon. That's correct, just like the pioneers did back in the day. I found this book to be fascinating, entertaining, informative and funny. What a wonderful way to learn American History! I know some readers found it boring, not me, I felt like I was on a great adventure. Traveling 2000 miles at age 60 is unimaginable for me, you have to be tough! Mr. Bucks writing lets you expe ...more
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
A man sets out in modern day America, accompanied by his brother and a dog, to travel the Oregon Trail pioneer style in a wagon pulled by mules. What is there NOT to love about this kind of tale? It is the adventure of a lifetime, complete with perils and victories, and the opportunity to let something new and strange seep into your soul, and to live history in a way that few people are able to.
In the hands of a more thoughtful person, perhaps the book that comes after such an epic journey as th
Historically fascinating and sense of adventure enthralling! The journey of a lifetime, for Rink and his brother Nick. Oh to have been the fly on the canvas flaps..... But one would have to be quite a boldly brazen, uninhibited, longsuffering, hardy horsefly (or rather, mulefly) to sojourn with the Buck Brothers.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for awarding me a free copy of The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey through Goodreads giveaways. Equally appreciative, thanks go out to Goodreads fri
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Actual rating about 3.5 stars, but I wasn't feeling generous.
Jun 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5 A detailed account of a modern trip on the Oregon trail, with a lot of historical info sprinkled along the way. The descriptions of life on the trail both now and in the past were fresh and fascinating. I could feel the tension in the more difficult parts of the trail. I would have given this a full four stars except for chapters 20-22 which the author describes as "a long section expressing ambivalence about the Mormons." He gives a decidedly biased history of the Church of Jesus Christ of ...more
This book is a lot of fun. Two brothers take a mule driven covered wagon from MO to OR. It's like Prairie Home Companion's Dusty and Lefty come to life.
Jason Koivu
At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this tale of two oddball brothers recreating the Oregon Trail passage via covered wagon. Buck's book certainly isn't perfect, but when it was all over I was sad for it to end, so I guess they won me over. 4 stars + 1 for that sweet sweet emotional connection
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Could not be more in my wheelhouse! A stunt memoir! Set in the American West! Bringing to mind tales of Laura Ingalls Wilder! And it's funny with a cranky old guy as the author's companion a la Bill Bryson! I knew this book would be a hit with me from the moment I heard about it.

Rinker visits an Oregon rail museum and decides to travel the full length of the original trail (which, granted, has many spurs and shortcuts and alternates so it's hard to figure out exactly which route is the "official
Joy D
In 2011, author-turned-mule-skinner Rinker Buck decides to emulate his father to “See America Slowly” in crossing of the Oregon Trail by covered wagon. Back in 1958, his father had taken the family on a similar briefer journey through Pennsylvania, leaving a lasting impression on his son. His relationship with his father is a recurring theme.

Fortunately, Rinker is joined by his brother, Nick, and his brother’s dog, Olive Oyl, who make critical contributions to the journey. Buck researches the t
Mar 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
So having grown up in Portland, this book of 2 modern day brothers crossing the Oregon Trail together was an easy add to my list. It got a 5 for historical writing, sentimental brotherhood, humor, general pioneer enthusiasm, and childhood stories. It got a 3 for the 96 excessive and unnecessary f-words. Still I stuck with it and would have suggested it to others until he got to the Mormons. Admittedly I don't read anti-Mormon literature, which I would surprisingly characterize this as. I expecte ...more
Book Riot Community
In the spirit of recreating historic journeys, like David Grann does in Lost City of Z, Rinker Buck traveled the two thousand mile stretch famously known as the Oregon Trail. (No, it wasn't just a computer game.) It may sound easy to traverse a trail with today's automation, but Buck and his brother did it the authentic way: in a covered wagon. Along their journey they encountered many of the same problems as the settlers back in the nineteenth century, such as wandering mules, driving rainstorm ...more
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The trip and the history 5 stars ... some of the other elements not.
Fred Forbes
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Actually, let's award 5 stars twice. Once for the book, once for the trip.

As Johnny Carson often said when he was hosting the Tonight Show and sidekick Ed would deliver some factoid "I.Did.Not.Know. That!" Said that to myself a lot going through the story of Buck and his brother ordering a wagon and a set of mules and setting off to cover 2,000 miles of the Oregon trail. What does George Washington have to do with mules? Why are mules infertile?

Also wondered "Did I ever know that?" as Buck retel
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book starts out slow. Not too slow - it's the build-up process of the Oregon Trail. I usually don't like all this build up stuff. I wanted to get into the meat of the 1840s and 1850s trek to Oregon by covered wagon. But as I read the story all this build up made sense.

It's about the OLD trail and the OLD-NEW trail. This journey is about Rinker Buck and his brother Nick. They travel the whole course by a replica of the old covered wagon, that they built and had basically the same problems a
Donna Davis
Buck is a journalist and author who replicated (to the extent possible in modern times) the covered wagon crossing of the old Oregon Trail, much of which still contains the original wagon ruts. A creature of the Pacific Northwest myself, I thought I had the whole Oregon Trail story down cold, but I learned a lot from Buck’s wonderful memoir, which threads his own experience with the historical information he gleaned from a variety of sources into a fluent, fascinating, accessible yet hyper-liter ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Rinker Buck has been "crazyass" passionate for years about wagon travel and the Oregon Trail. In fact, he took a wagon trip with his father and several siblings when he was a kid. They had a sign affixed to the back of the wagon stating, "We're Sorry For The Delay - But We Want The Children To SEE AMERICA SLOWLY". What follows in this book is Buck's actual wagon journey he takes on the original Oregon trail.

Buck, along with his brother Nick, a custom built wagon and three mules make the trip beg
Larry Bassett
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, history
This is an audible book that is read by the author. He is not a performer like they like to say about some audible readers. But he is reading this book as the person who lived this experience and there is no doubt about that. Just for the experience of hearing how they called the mules, the Audible is totally essential.

You would not call this a fancy book. I’m not sure you would call it erudite. As a guy who is lived his life in the east and only been out west a couple of times, I learned some t
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
“Crazyass passion is the staple of life and persistence its nourishing force. Without them, you cannot cross the trail.”

“Seeing America slowly was, in a way, like eating slow food-I wasn't covering much ground in a single day, but I was digesting a lot more.”

Looking for the perfect end of the summer reading adventure? Boy, do I have a pick for you. Rinker Buck decides to ride the entire 2,000 mile Oregon Trail, in a covered wagon, pulled by mules. Something that has not been attempted in over
Jan 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
I was SO disappointed with this book. I loved the idea of a modern day crossing of the Oregon Trail and reading along with that adventure. There are portions of that in the book but they are far too few and far between--instead we get long political & personal rants along with long segments that wander off into unrelated or tangentially related subjects (like mule husbandry for instance.) The author comes across as very arrogant and mean-spirited as he disparages people of all different backgrou ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
nobody died of dysentery. two stars.

i wanted to like this book so, so much. i love oregon trail history! and there was a lot of great information about pioneer life and tidbits from old journals and stuff. i actually liked the part about the history of mule breeding. but it read very, very slowly, and Buck is not a great storyteller. i also suspect he is an unreliable narrator. his rants were super condescending, there's a part where he talks about how Americans could benefit from turning off th
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
So much testosterone.
I added the illustrator credit as the drawings are wonderful.
I hope that the audio book is good for my husband to read.
The acknowledgements at the end are long; presumably in there is a hidden something akin to a bibliography, but I really would have like a list of Rink's favorite references.

I almost want to give this book five stars: it is "amazing" and there is plenty here for a variety of readers, whether into travel, memoir, history... and I do highly recommend it to an
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Tales from the Ant World
  • The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West
  • The Killing of Crazy Horse
  • The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America
  • Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier
  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
  • Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West
  • Great Plains
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History
  • Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America
  • The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years
  • Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West
  • The Oregon Trail
  • Trapped
  • Ugly's Residential Wiring, 2017 Edition
See similar books…
Rinker Buck began his career in journalism at the Berkshire Eagle and was a longtime staff writer for the Hartford Courant. He has written for Vanity Fair, New York, Life, and many other publications, and his stories have won the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award. He is the author of The Oregon Trail as well as the ...more

News & Interviews

Ashley Poston made her name with Once Upon a Con, a contemporary series set in the world of fandom, and her two-part space opera, Heart of...
37 likes · 5 comments
“I do not believe in organized religion, herbal remedies, yoga, Reiki, kabbalah, deep massage, slow food, or chicken soup for the soul. The nostrums of Deepak Chopra and Barbara De Angelis cannot rescue people like me. I believe in crazyass passion.” 9 likes
“History almost everywhere is tragic and ironic, but in America the contrasts are more stark because we set such high ideals.” 4 likes
More quotes…