Oregon Trail emigrants along the Sweetwater River came to a place where steep hills forced them to cross the stream three times within two miles—a dangerous option at high water—while a detour through deep sand was safer but slower: just another day on a long journey with hard choices.
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Iced drinks on the Oregon Trail? Early emigrants refreshed at the fabled Ice Springs near the Sweetwater River—now known as Ice Slough. But after a decade of trailside chopping and trampling, the spot became less attractive. Later travelers felt deceived by the stories they had heard.
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.
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.
A short line with a short life, the 40-mile-long Wyoming North and South Railroad began quietly during the oil-boom years of the 1920s. It helped the Salt Creek area thrive for a time, but unsound construction, better roads for cars and trucks, bad weather and the Great Depression sealed its demise.
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.
Frank Shepperson has ranched with his family northwest of Casper, Wyo., for many years. In this 2014 interview, Shepperson, a former national rodeo champion, talks at length about rodeo, ranching—and airplanes. He is a past president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and former chairman of the Natrona County School Board.