Oregon-California Trails Association

The Oregon-California Trails Association (a non-profit, 501 (C) (3) Association) is the nation’s largest and most influential organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of overland emigrant trails and the emigrant experience.

OCTA members are dedicated volunteers who participate in a range of activities to support the historic Oregon and California trails.

OCTA works with public and private land managers and owners to protect the trails and prevent the destruction of trail remnants, graves and other trail-related sites. Members also place markers on the trails and maintain existing markers.

several hikers walk uphill past a trail marker in open landscape

OCTA encourages the study of the trails through its publications and through the development of classroom materials for teachers. Members also map the trails and collect data for the documentation of overland diaries, newspapers and other materials.

OCTA headquarters are located on the grounds of the National Frontier Trails Museum (318 West Pacific, Independence, MO 64051) and house our Merrill J. Mattes Research Library.

OCTA’s Statement of Purpose, as adopted by its Board of Directors in 1987 and reaffirmed in 1991, is as follows:

  • To initiate and coordinate activities relating to the identification, preservation, interpretation and improved accessibility of extant rut segments, trail remains, graves and associated historic trail sites, landmarks, artifacts and objects along the overland western historic trails, roads, routes, branches, and cutoffs of the Trans-Mississippi region.
  • To prevent further deterioration of the foregoing and to take or pursue whatever measures necessary or advisable to cause more of the same to become accessible or more so to the general public.
  • To implement these purposes by acquiring either alone or through or jointly with others – federal, state, local, or private – title to the land or lands on which any of the same is located or a preservation or other easements with regard to the same – by purchase, gift or otherwise – and by cooperating with or initiating, coordinating, and assisting the efforts of such others to do so.
  • To publicize and seek public exposure of the goals and activities of the Association so as to create popular awareness of a concern for the necessity of preserving the foregoing.
  • To facilitate research projects about the aforesaid and to publish a journal as a forum for scholarly articles adding to the sum of knowledge about the same.

To learn more about when and how OCTA was established, please read OCTA’s Beginnings

several young people dance in tribal clothing           two men greet each other with handshake over a table covered with books

woman receives a certificate from a woman and man with microphone
President Pat Traffas, Volunteer of the Year Jean Coupal-Smith, and Past President John Krizek at the 2017 OCTA convention in Council Bluffs, Iowa

        several people stand near trail marker made of railroad ties in sagebrush landscape