Register Cliff, WY

     The Oregon Trail enters southeastern Wyoming along the North Platte River a short distance after passing through Mitchell Pass at Scotts Bluff.  The trail continues northwest into central Wyoming and present-day Casper before separating from the North Platte and heading southwest across the desert toward the Rocky Mountains.  This is beautiful, sparsely populated country and the pioneers trek across the high desert west of Casper often proved a grueling experience.
   
Southeastern Wyoming boasts several of the most interesting sites along the Oregon Trail.  Further across the state is famous South Pass whose discovery made possible the trip by wagons across the mountains.  The pass had been discovered decades earlier by fur traders who were traveling back East from Fort Astoria.  Southwestern Wyoming was also the point where pioneers traveling the Mormon Trail separated from emigrants headed for Oregon. Wyoming was a difficult trek for the wagon trains headed to Oregon, California, and Utah.  High altitudes, long stretches without water or food for livestock, and major mountain grades required of the wagons resulted in a tough stretch of travel for the pioneers headed west.
     A number of interesting Oregon Trail sites are accessible in Wyoming.  Among these are (east to west):

1) Fort Laramie - A major stop for emigrants heading west, Fort Laramie (previously know as Fort William and Fort John) was established in 1834 as a fur trading post that was utilized by Indians, traders, and trappers until the arrival of the first emigrants in the early 1840s.
  The fort was purchased in 1849 by the government for use as U.S. Army post.  The remains of the fort have been restored and Fort Laramie is operated as a national historic site by the National Park Service.  Visitors can walk among the buildings, view an audiovisual presentation in the visitor center, and enjoy living history presentations presented by volunteers and park personnel.  Fort Laramie has always been one of our favorite stops when traveling west. View our video of Fort Laramie.

2) The Guernsey Ruts - West of Fort Laramie marshy ground surrounding the
North Platte forced wagon trains across a ridge of soft sandstone through which they carved ruts up to five feet deep.  We found no site on the Oregon Trail more impressive than the Guernsey Ruts.  Preserved as a state historic site, the ruts are easily reached via a short paved walking trail.  The ruts are three miles south of the small town of Guernsey that boasts a city campground and nine-hole golf course. View our video of the Guernsey Ruts.

3) Register Cliff - Also near
Guernsey is Register Cliff where emigrants carved their names and dates (and sometimes their hometowns) into the soft sandstone cliff.  Much of the sandstone has been defaced by more recent visitors wanting immortal fame, but pioneer inscriptions remain along a protected area along the far end of the cliff.  View our video of Register Cliff.

4) Independence Rock - Said to be the most-noted landmark west of Fort Laramie on the Oregon Trail, Independence Rock is a giant granite hump near which many emigrants camped on their way west.  Wagon ruts of the trail are clearly visible beneath a footbridge near the parking lot.  Inscriptions are visible to visitors who are permitted to climb to the top of the rock. 

5) South Pass - A wide, gently-sloping gap in the Rocky Mountains, South Pass allowed westward-bound wagon trains to avoid the rugged mountain terrain when crossing the continental divide.  The discovery of the pass decades earlier by fur traders returning East from the West Coast made travel on the Oregon Trail possible.  A county road off Wyoming 28 leads to a segment of the original trail at South Pass. 

6) Fort Bridger - In the extreme southwestern corner of present-day Wyoming, Fort Bridger served as  a supply center for pioneers on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails.  The fort was operated by famed mountain man Jim Bridger who with a partner built the fort in 1843 following a decline in the fur trade.  Ownership was assumed by the Mormons in the 1850s.  They subsequently burned the fort that was taken over by the military.  Fort Bridger is now operated by the state of Wyoming as a state historic site.  Visitors can walk the grounds, tour the buildings, and take in the museum.

 

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The Oregon Trail in Wyoming:
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