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.
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
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.
Early Oregon Trail travelers were enchanted by clear, cold water at Willow Spring, halfway between the North Platte and Independence Rock. But after traffic boomed with the 1849 gold rush, they were more often disappointed: Pioneers had cut down trees; livestock had eaten all the grass and muddied the water.