The overlook of the Missouri River Valley at the Independence-Wayne City River Landing site appears much like it has for millennia. River travel and landings played vital roles in westward trails.
Here French traders/trappers had the first contact with the Osage Indian nations.
Riverboat travelers emigrating to Oregon and California in the 1840s and 1850s ascended this bluff in order to reach Independence Square and its nearby outfitters.
The Wayne City view remains spectacular and the exhibits introduce visitors to a the history of the trails. When looking over the river valley, imagine the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804 slowly, steadily making its way up river. Move forward in time to the early 1830s when paddlewheel steamboats began plying the river, docking here, and progressing ‘civilization’ westward. In July 1843, and November 1844, local landowners said that, “Wayne City is the nearest and best point to land the goods for Independence and the Santa Fee Trail [sic.] and to ship the produce raised in a considerable portion of the County.”
They added that, “the exportation of produce from this County is increasing rapidly and demands all the facilities which can be furnished...” but much like today, local knew already “that the present road is wholly unfit for the purpose…. The road was “extremely bad, at some seasons of the year almost impassable and runs over such land as makes it impossible to be made a good road without great expense.”Independence Square directly south was situated three miles away because of its plentiful fresh water springs . . . one thing you could not procure at the ‘Muddy Mo.” Merchants around the Square would outfit travelers heading west.
As time went on, Independence lost that lead to ports upriver (see Westport Landing route). Still, just as St. Louis claims to be the ‘gateway to the west,’ travelers need to consider to what time period that moniker refers. For St. Louis, it was prior to the 1820s. For Independence, it was the 1840s. For Westport Landing, it was the 1840s to 1860s.