Their wagons lurching over sharp boulders up a steep grade, westbound emigrants found a particularly difficult stretch of trail about 40 miles east of South Pass. The late-starting Willie Company of Mormons pulling handcarts suffered terribly here in 1856. For many, the end of the journey was a grave.
Historic Spots & Monuments
Browse Articles about Historic Spots & Monuments
|Fort Fetterman||WyomingHeritage.org, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office|
|Fort Fred Steele||WyomingHeritage.org|
|Fort Halleck||Rebecca Hein|
|Fort Laramie||Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office|
|Fort Laramie Treaty 1868||Tom Rea|
|Fort Laramie, Treaty of, 1851||Lesley Wischmann|
|Fort McKinney||WyomingHeritage.org, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office|
|Fort Phil Kearny||WyomingHeritage.org, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office|
|Fort Reno||Lori Van Pelt, WyomingHeritage.org|
Historic Spots & Monuments
Westbound wagon-train emigrants got their first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains when they first saw the blue cone of Laramie Peak, 85 miles away. Snowcapped in early summer, the mountain stayed in sight for a week or more, dominating many diarists’ accounts and foreshadowing drier, more difficult country ahead.
In 1854, a year of heavy traffic on the Oregon Trail, Fort Laramie was woefully undermanned, tribes were hungry and tensions were growing. That August, in a dispute over a strayed cow, a reckless young West Pointer ignited a war with the Lakota Sioux that would last a generation.
From 1929 to 1942, the Warm Spring Canyon tie flume carried 300,000 railroad ties per season down from mountain tie camps to the Wind River near Dubois, Wyo., for floating to Riverton and the railroad in big log drives each spring. The flume was abandoned in 1942; dramatic chutes and trestles remain.
Early mail pilots eyed roads and railroad tracks as they flew. Soon, the U.S. Airmail built a transcontinental system of night beacons and landing fields. In 1931, low-frequency radio signals from Medicine Bow were the final link–like the railroad’s golden spike 62 years before—in a navigational chain allowing on-schedule, cross-country, all-weather flight.
Begun as a jobs program in the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps—“Roosevelt’s Tree Army”— employed more than 1,000 men in Wyoming building roads, improving parks, fighting fires and boosting local economies. The CCC legacy includes the classic, rustic stone-and-log buildings at Guernsey State Park.
Oregon Trail emigrants faced high risks crossing the North Platte River near present Casper, Wyo. River crossings were extremely dangerous; operators of commercial ferries and bridges charged steep prices. Until bridges were built, many people and animals drowned in the swift, deep, shockingly cold water of the Platte.
Fifteen miles from Prospect Hill, Oregon Trail emigrants as they neared Independence Rock began passing shallow, sometimes dry lakes. If dry, the lake floors were encrusted with snow-white alkali—essentially baking soda—which the pioneers called saleratus. It worked well for raising bread baked over sagebrush campfires.