As many as half a million people crossed what’s now Wyoming in the mid-19th century before the transcontinental railroad was built. Their trails followed the North Platte and Sweetwater rivers west to South Pass, after which they divided into various routes bound for Oregon, Utah or California. They were making the journey of a lifetime, on routes blazed by Indians and trappers, and then worn deep and wide by thousands of wagons and perhaps millions of draft animals. These trails remain largely unchanged in Wyoming. Their white-topped wagons still hold an important place in the national imagination.
Historic Spots & Monuments
Browse Articles about Historic Spots & Monuments
|Okie, J. B.||Tom Rea|
|Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park||John Clayton|
|Oregon Buttes, Oregon Trail landmark||WyoHistory.org|
|Oregon Trail Ruts||Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office|
|Overland Trail||David Johnson|
|Overland Trail, defense of||Rebecca Hein|
|O’Bryan, Lowell, death of on UW campus, 1922||Phil Roberts|
|Pacific Springs, stopping place on the Oregon Trail||WyoHistory.org|
|Parker, J. P. and Martin Ringo, Oregon Trail graves of||WyoHistory.org|
|Parkitecture, Wyoming||John Clayton|
Historic Spots & Monuments
Established by mountain men Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez in 1843, Fort Bridger was an important rest and re-supply spot for emigrants bound to Utah, California and Oregon. Mormons acquired the site in the mid-1850s, and burned it in 1857 as the U.S. Army approached during the bloodless Utah War. The following year the Army took over, and garrisoned the fort until 1890. Today it is a state historic site.
The Ames Monument, a 60-foot-high granite pyramid, was completed in 1882 at the highest point on the Union Pacific Railroad, to honor railroad financiers Oakes and Oliver Ames. The tracks have since been moved, but the monument is still easily visible and accessible from Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyo.
The U.S. Army established Platte Bridge Station in 1862 to protect the Oregon/California/Mormon Trail crossing of the North Platte River and the new transcontinental telegraph. After Lt. Caspar Collins was killed there by Cheyenne and Lakota Indians in 1865, the post was renamed Fort Casper, misspelling his first name. The fort was abandoned two years later, but reconstructed in 1936—and renamed Fort Caspar—with funds from the Works Progress Administration. Fort grounds and a museum are open to the public.
A stagecoach station established in 1856 at the confluence of the Ham’s and Black’s Fork Rivers west of Green River lay on long-distance travel routes used earlier by Indians, fur trappers and emigrants. In 1868 the Union Pacific Railroad established a station nearby, and renamed the place Granger. The site of the old stage station and one acre of land were donated to the state of Wyoming in 1930 to honor the early travelers.
South Pass City, a gold mining town founded near South Pass in 1867, reached its pinnacle soon after a valuable strike was made in 1868 at the Carissa Mine. The town is also famous as the birthplace of women’s suffrage, because the 1869 bill making Wyoming Territory the first government in the world to guarantee women the right to vote was introduced by South Pass City’s representative, William H. Bright. Esther Hobart Morris, appointed South Pass City justice of the peace soon afterward, became the first woman in the nation to hold public office. The town, with many original buildings carefully restored, is operated as a state historic site.
Devils Tower, a basalt column rising 1,267 feet above the nearby Belle Fourche River, was the nation’s first National Monument and remains important to tourists and the many tribes that hold it sacred.
Ruts carved two to six feet deep in a sandstone ridge on the south side of the North Platte River about a half mile south of Guernsey, Wyo., provide striking physical evidence of the route followed by hundreds of thousands of westbound emigrants the Oregon Trail during the years 1841-1869.