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.
Historic Spots & Monuments
Browse Articles about Historic Spots & Monuments
|Emigrant Hill, Oregon Trail site||Randy Brown|
|Emigrant Spring, Oregon Trail Slate Creek Cutoff site||Randy Brown|
|Ephraim Brown, homicide victim, pioneer grave of||Randy Brown|
|Ferries, North Platte River; Oregon Trail sites of||WyoHistory.org|
|Fires, Yellowstone 1988||Dan Whipple|
|Forest fires,Yellowstone, 1988||Dan Whipple|
|Fort Bridger||Will Bagley|
|Fort Fetterman||WyomingHeritage.org, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office|
Historic Spots & Monuments
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.
Poetry, shouts and song—year after year, reactions were similar when Oregon Trail emigrants managed the steep climb up Prospect Hill, also called Ryan Hill, on the road from the North Platte to Independence Rock. The sight of range after range of mountains greeted them—a sweeping view of new country.