About This Place
Council Bluffs, known until 1852 as Kanesville, Iowa — the historic starting point of the Mormon Trail and eventual northernmost anchor town of the other emigrant trails, is a city in and the county seat of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, United States and is on the east bank of the Missouri River across from what is now the much larger city of Omaha, Nebraska. Settlers departing west into the sparsely settled unorganized parts of the Territory of Missouri to the Oregon Country and the newly conquered California Territory through the (eventual) Nebraska Territory from Kanesville traveled by wagon trains along the much storied Oregon, Mormon, or California Trails into the newly expanded United States western lands — after the first large organized wagon trains left Missouri in 1841, the annual migration waves began in earnest by spring of 1843 and built up thereafter with the opening of the Mormon Trail (1846) until peaking in the later 1860s when news of railroad progress had a braking effect. By the 1860s virtually all migration wagon trains were passing near the renamed town. The wagon train trails became less important with the advent of the first complete transcontinental railway in 1869 but while trail use diminished after that, their use continued on at lesser rates until late in the nineteenth century.
The population of Council Bluffs was 62,230 at the 2010 census. Along with neighboring Omaha, Nebraska to the west, Council Bluffs is part of the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States in 2010, with an estimated population of 865,350 residing in the eight counties of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. Council Bluffs is more than a decade older than Omaha. The latter, founded in 1854 by Council Bluffs businessmen and speculators following the Kansas-Nebraska Act, has grown to be the significantly larger city.
The city was named for an 1804 meeting of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with the Otoe tribe, which took place near present-day Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. The Council Bluffs became the generic name for the land on both sides of the Missouri River north of the mouth of the Platte River and northwestern corner of Mills County, Iowa was then specifically called Council Bluffs.