north platte river
north platte river
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.
Seminoe and Kortes dams, both located in a remote stretch of northern Carbon County, Wyo., were constructed in the 1930s and 1940s primarily for the production of hydropower. While power plants at both dams still generate electricity, the area is frequented by tourists, especially fishermen who travel to the renowned Miracle Mile, just downstream from Kortes Dam, to catch trout.
Saratoga, famed for its hot springs, has often been called the place “where the trout leap in Main Street.” Treasured by fishermen, hunters and outdoor lovers, the town continues to thrive on the tourist trade. A sawmill, mainstay of the local economy from 1934 to 1983, recently re-opened.
Though the site was an important river crossing on the early frontier, the town of Casper did not begin until 1888, when the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad reached the area. The town immediately became an important shipping point for cattle and wool. The first oil refinery was built in 1895 to process crude oil from the Salt Creek Oil Field, 40 miles to the north. The first true oil boom began after 1910 and lasted through the mid 1920s, and the town’s fortunes have been closely connected to the energy business ever since. In 2010 the city’s population passed 55,000. Casper continues as a retail, medical and energy-industry service hub.
In 1869, Fort Fred Steele was built by the U.S. Army to protect workers on the advancing transcontinental railroad at the spot where the rails crossed the North Platte River. The fort was closed in 1886, and the site, containing foundations of the original buildings, was much later acquired by the state.
The basin of the North Platte River takes up the southeastern quarter of Wyoming, plus a finger of land along the tributary Sweetwater River in the center of the state. The courses of the North Platte and Sweetwater determined early fur-trade and emigrant routes. Since that time, the basin’s water and other resources have continued to draw industry, stock raising, dams and irrigation—and people.