Last Stop: Fort Bridger

By: Greg Rasanen

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  Entrance to the replica of the original fort

Entrance to the replica of the original fort

As a kid, I remember visiting Fort Bridger on school trips and with my family for the Fort Bridger Rendezvous.   The fort is a great spot to learn about the long history of migration across Wyoming and pioneers the settled here.  The fort was established in 1842 by its namesake, Jim Bridger, a famous mountain man, and trapper. In the early days, the fort was a trading post for trappers and mountain men who would rendezvous here to trade and ship their beaver and other fur pelts back east.

Jim Bridger is one of the men that are credited with finding south pass route later used by settlers traveling the Oregon Trail, as well as the pass leading to Salt Lake that bears his name, and is still used as part of the I-80 route.  The fort became the hub for the California, Oregon, Overland, and Mormon trails, making it a key fort for resupply for settlers heading west.

  One of the oldest remaining building from the military days, this cabin was an officer quarters duplex, built in 1858.

One of the oldest remaining building from the military days, this cabin was an officer quarters duplex, built in 1858.

  Black and Orange Cabins was built outside the fort grounds as Lincoln Highway traffic increased.  It is an early example of the motor hotel, or motel, with carports next to each cabin.

Black and Orange Cabins was built outside the fort grounds as Lincoln Highway traffic increased.  It is an early example of the motor hotel, or motel, with carports next to each cabin.

In 1847, there was a dispute between Mormon settlers and Jim Bridger because Jim was selling alcohol and firearms to the Indians.  By 1853 the Mormons had formed a militia to arrest Jim, so he left the area. In 1855, the Mormons bought the property to expand their own settlement and supply post, although Jim Bridger denied he ever agreed to the sale.

However, they hadn’t even paid it off before the military arrived in 1858 and took over the fort, which the Mormons actually burned as they left the area.  After the military left in 1890, the post and buildings were bought up by locals, and parts became milk farms, motels, cafes, and stores to support the new Lincoln Highway traffic.  Finally, in 1928 the site was sold to the state to establish a museum and historical site.

  Teepee city at the edge of Fort Bridger Rendezvous

Teepee city at the edge of Fort Bridger Rendezvous

Today, you can relive some of the historic glory during the Fort Bridger Rendezvous, where traders hawk their western wares, participants dress in authentic pre-1840 clothing and camp in tents and tee-pees from the period as well.  It is held at the fort every year around Labor Day weekend.

 

 

 

There’s much more to see in Wyoming and along I-80, much of it I haven’t even explored myself.  I hope the next time you’re traveling across the country you think back on the long history of migration across the United States.  And if you’re driving the historic route of the Oregon Trail or Lincoln Highway seek out some of the historic sites along the way. After all, what once took 20 sleeps now takes one day, so spend a little of that time saved, off the path now paved.  


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