Crossing the Rivers
Crossing rivers in the 1800s was difficult. This was one of their first problems they would encounter. Many of the rivers were very difficult to cross. If the river was shallow and not moving at a fast speed they could cross by fording. They would have the oxen pull the wagon across to the other bank. Sometimes when the river was deeper they would swim the animals and float their wagon across the river. Children would help their parents prepare the wagon by making a wax paste that would waterproof the open spaces of the wagon. For the deeper and more dangerous rivers they would build a large flat boat called a scow. This boat would float them and their covered wagons across the river. Their animals would have to swim across because they were too big. The scow had big blocks of wood to hold their wagons on the scow. Sometimes Indians would ferry them across the river, and they would have to pay them or trade with them, with something they wanted. Sometimes it could take up to five days before an entire wagon train could cross the river.
(source – written by nine and ten year old students at Floresville Elementary School in south Texas)