Directed by John Ford, two horse traders guide a Mormon wagon train west that gets joined by entertainers and a family of wanted criminals.
Uncle Shiloh Clegg (Charles Kemper) shoots a man, and he and his sons are wanted.
Horse-traders Travis Blue (Ben Johnson) and Sandy (Harry Carey Jr.) come into town and sell a bronco to the Marshal. Mormons Elder Wiggs (Ward Bond) and Adam Perkins (Russell Simpson) want to buy their horses and hire them to lead the wagon train, but they say no and gamble. As the wagon train pulls out, they change their minds and agree for $450.
Travis, Sandy, and Wiggs find a wagon with Denver (Joanne Dru), drunk Fleuretty (Ruth Clifford), and Dr. A Locksley Hall (Alan Mowbray) stranded without water. Travis and Wiggs persuade others to let them join. Sandy gets into a fight with a Mormon, and Wiggs stops it. Denver pours bathwater on Travis’s horse, and she promises not to take a bath until he says so.
On the trail Travis gives Denver shoes. Sandy shouts, “Water!” and they rush into the river. People square-dance on boards. The five Cleggs arrive, and Shiloh asks for help. Wiggs says they will share. Sandy and Travis know who they are. Shiloh tells Dr. Hall to fix his wounded shoulder. Wiggs tells the Cleggs to behave.
Travis has the wagons avoid quicksand. Scouting Travis sees Navahos, who chase him back to the wagons. He and Sandy translate for Wiggs, and the Navahos invite them to their camp. Travis protects Denver from Reese Clegg (Fred Libby), and she argues with Travis. A Navaho woman was molested by Reese, and Wiggs has him whipped.
Wiggs says goodbye to Dr. Hall, Fleuretty, and Denver, who head toward California. Travis courts Denver, but she says goodbye. A Clegg tells Dr. Hall to go back to the camp. Uncle Shiloh has taken over with guns, and he disarms Travis and Sandy.
Shiloh leads the wagon train west. Travis tells Sandy they are not gunfighters. A posse is looking for the Cleggs, who hide in the wagons. The marshal questions if Wiggs is lying. Sandy whistles, and the horses react. Travis tells Wiggs the grain wagon may not make it. Wiggs says they must take their seed grain. Travis says they have to dig. Sandy tells Travis that he has a gun.
After they dig a road, a wagon falls over. Dr. Hall insists on going next, and the other wagons follow. Shiloh shoots the driver of the grain wagon and makes Wiggs drive. Sandy starts shooting, and Travis gets a gun. Shiloh says to stop shooting; all the other Cleggs are dead. Travis kills Shiloh and throws the gun away.
In the river valley the Mormons sing and dance. Sandy kisses Prudence Perkins (Kathleen O’Malley), and Travis drives a wagon with Denver.
This western portrays the Mormons going west and limits the violence to and at the gang of criminals. The music and the challenges bring out the pioneering spirit.