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Compiled, edited, and written by Michael Dougherty and Heidi Pfeil Dougherty and the Staff of Ultimate Press Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia The Ultimate

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  • Compiled, edited, and written byMichael Dougherty

    and Heidi Pfeil Doughertyand the Staff of Ultimate Press

    WyomingAtlas and Travel Encyclopedia


  • an Ultimate® Guide BookCopyright © 2007 Michael Dougherty

    Published by Riverbend Publishing, Helena, Montana

    ISBN 10: 1-931832-84-6

    ISBN 13: 978-1-931832-84-7

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior

    permission of the publisher, except for brief excerpts for reviews.

    Printed in the U.S.A.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 MG 15 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 07

    Writing and Compilation:Michael Dougherty and Heidi Pfeil Dougherty

    Layout:Rachel C. Jones

    Research and Editorial Assistance:Arianna Haines and Lauri Olsen

    Written, designed and produced by:

    Ultimate Pressan imprint of Champions Publishing, Inc.

    301 Evergreen, Suite 201DBozeman, Montana 59715

    Phone: 406-585-0237Website:

    For advertising inquiries and editorial comments, please contact Ultimate Press at the address above.

    For book sales, please contact:


    PO Box 5833Helena, MT 59604

    Phone toll-free: 1-866-787-2363Fax: 1-406-449-0330

    Email: [email protected]:

    Front Cover Photos: Main Cover photo – Heidi Pfeil Dougherty

    Back Cover Photos: Rodeo – Courtesy of Cody Night Rodeo • Rafting – Courtesy of Jackson Hole Whitewater

    All others – Michael Dougherty

  • Introduction • PAGE 1Wyoming: The Cowboy State

    Section 1 • PAGE 49Northwest Area • Including Jackson, Dubois, Pinedale and Star Valley

    Section 2 • PAGE 91Northcentral Area • Including Cody, Worland, Powell, Lovell and Thermopolis

    Section 3 • PAGE 141Northeast Area • Including Sheridan, Buffalo, Gillette and Newcastle

    Section 4 • PAGE 205Southwest Area • Including Evanston, Kemmerer, Green River and Rock Springs

    Section 5 • PAGE 249Southcentral Area • Including Casper, Riverton, Lander and Rawlins

    Section 6 • PAGE 325Southeast Area • Including Cheyenne, Laramie and Douglas

    Fort Laramie National Historic Site • PAGE 383

    Grand Teton National Park • PAGE 399

    Yellowstone National Park • PAGE 433

    Index • PAGE 483


  • Acknowledgment

    We offer a sincere thank you to all of the sponsors who, withouttheir financial support, this book would not have been possible.Throughout the book, you’ll see their names in bold. Stop inand see them when you’re in their area. They would like to hearfrom you.

    We especially wish to thank our staff for their excellent help inbringing this first edition to press. A special thanks to PatriciaDeWitt for her tireless efforts in obtaining our sponsors, withoutwhich, we would not exist.


    This guide focuses on recreational activities including travelingto some sites that are off the more frequently traveled roads. Asall such activities contain elements of risk, the publisher, author,affiliated individuals and companies included in this guide dis-claim any responsibility for any injury, harm, or illness that mayoccur to anyone through, or by use of, the information in thisbook. Although the author and publisher have made everyeffort to ensure that the information was correct at the time ofgoing to press, the author and publisher do not assume andhereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss or damageto person or property caused by errors, omissions, or anypotential travel disruption due to labor or financial difficulty,whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, acci-dent, or any other cause.

    Throughout this book, public domain documents of govern-ment agencies (National Park Service, USDA Forest Service,Bureau of Land Management, and Wyoming State Parks andHistoric Sites) were reprinted. Also, brochures published bylocal area chambers of commerce and from the various attrac-tions were reprinted in part or in their entirety. Permissionswere obtained where required.

    iv Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

  • 1




    THE COWBOY STATEWhen people think of Wyoming, they tend tothink of cowboys, as the nickname shows. Thecowboy is really a symbol of Wyoming‘s rugged,hard-working character. Covering nearly 98,000square miles, the fourth largest state in the unionis a land of wild, wide-open spaces and magnifi-cent vistas.

    Every corner of the state has natural wondersof world renown: from Yellowstone and theGrand Tetons in the northwest corner, to Devil’sTower and the Black Hills in the northeast, to theVedauwoo Rocks and the Medicine Bow NationalForest in the southeast, and Fossil Butte and theFlaming Gorge in the southwest. In betweenthese marvels, numerous opportunities to exploreWyoming’s varied, often awe-inspiring landscapesabound.

    In the high heart of the Rocky Mountains,Wyoming is laced with a number of smallerranges, including the Laramie Mountains, theSnowy Range, the Sierra Madres, the Salt Range,the Gros Ventres, the Absarokas, the Big Horns,the Tetons, and some of the regions highestpeaks, the Wind Rivers, reaching nearly 14,000feet elevation. Wyoming mountains are a specta-cle of stark granite slopes, rolling foothills, andevergreen forests.

    Between the various mountain ranges, youwill find a variety of wilderness areas, pastoralvalleys, grasslands, deserts, and amazing rock for-mations. You can find nearly every geologicalphenomenon imaginable, from deep canyons tomajestic buttes and pinnacles to convoluted cav-erns. Geothermal curiosities occur all around thestate, from geysers to hot springs.

    Water is a precious commodity in the state,but it is crisscrossed with several streams, includ-ing the Green, the Snake, Bighorn, the Platte, thePowder, the Laramie and the Wind Rivers.

    Headwaters for the Missouri, Columbia, andColorado Rivers also fall within Wyoming’s bor-ders. The continental divide, which cuts throughthe mountains, creates a place where water runsin three different directions. The landscape is dot-ted with a handful of lakes and reservoirs thatprovide not only recreational opportunities, butalso much needed water conservation and dam-generated energy for the state.

    NATURAL HISTORYTaking its name from a Delaware word meaning“land of mountains and valleys”, Wyoming hasbeen a land of wonders for millions, even billionsof years. The very minerals from which the earthis formed here harbor countless treasures, fromsilver and gold, to copper and iron ore, to semi-precious and even precious stones. The largestpiece of solid jade ever unearthed came fromWyoming, and one of the largest diamonds everfound came from here as well.

    Situated in an ancient volcanic caldera, theYellowstone region boasts the most extensive areaof geyser activity in the world, as well as boilingmud pots, hot springs, prismatic pools, and otherhydrothermal phenomena. Waterfalls abound,and the deep and serene Yellowstone Lake is sur-rounded by multicolored cliffs, layered andcarved from years of glacial activity.

    Another vast ancient lake, really an inlandsea, once covered much of Wyoming and leftdeposits of soda ash and other important miner-als useful in a variety of industries today.Prehistoric life thrived around the tropical lake,leaving rich stores of fossil fuels and a host ofarcheologically significant remains, from severaldinosaur graveyards to petrified trees. Some ofthe earliest ancestors of the modern horse havebeen unearthed within Wyoming’s boundaries, aswell as many other more ancient life forms.

    WildlifeToday, there are more animals than people in

    Wyoming, which is the least populated of anystate in the union. Wyoming is home to numer-ous native species of ungulates, such as the bison(buffalo), pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep,mule deer and white-tailed deer, moose, and elk,to name just a few. In the last couple of centuries,the state has also become host to a large popula-tion of domesticated cattle, sheep, horses, andeven a few llamas and ostriches. Wild mustangsalso roam the plains.

    The animal population includes numerousprairie and mountain birds, from the Bald Eagleto the Meadowlark to the Sage Grouse. Severalfish species inhabit the waterways, includingmany varieties of trout, bass, and even catfish.Beavers and otters can also be seen in streamsand ponds. Marmots, rabbits, picas, chipmunks,and other small critters frequent the highlandsand lowlands alike. Wolves, cougars, coyotes,foxes, badgers, and even a few bears also dwell inthis largely untamed country.

    Madison River north of West Yellowstone

    Wyoming Ata Glance

    Population (2000): 493,782Entered union: July 10, 1890Capital: CheyenneNickname: The Cowboy State or The

    Equality State

    Motto: Equal RightsBird: MeadowlarkFlower: Indian PaintbrushSong: “Wyoming”Stones: JadeTree: CottonwoodAnimal: BisonFish: Cutthroat TroutFossil: Knightia (Fossilized fish)Land area: 97,819 square milesWater area: 714 square milesSize ranking: 9thGeographic center: Fremont, 58 miles

    ENE of Lander

    Length: 360 milesWidth: 280 milesHighest point: 13,804 feet (Gannett


    Lowest point: 3,099 feet (Belle Fourche River)

    Mean Elevation: 6,700 ftHighest temperature: 114º on July 12,

    1900, at Basin

    Lowest temperature: -66º on Feb. 9, 1933, at Riverside

  • 2





    Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia


    Native AmericansDrawn by the mineral treasures and the

    wildlife, humans have been living here for mil-lennia as well. Some of the oldest NativeAmerican campsites in North America havebeen discovered in Wyoming, dating back toover 11, 000 years ago.

    Ever since that time, many groups of NativeAmericans have valued Wyoming as prime hunt-ing ground. Early tribes utilized “buffalo jumps,”cliffs where the bison were driven over the ledgeto their deaths. Later on, hunting was done withweapons made from the flint and metals found inthe region. The hunters left behind bones, pot-tery, petroglyphs, fire rings, and sacred stone cir-cles known as Medicine Wheels, the use of whichis still something of a mystery.

    In more recent times, numerous plains tribesinhabited the Wyoming wilderness, and contin-ued to vie for hunting rights in the region forcenturies. Among these were the Cheyenne,Sioux, Arapaho, Shoshone, Lakota, Crow,Comanche, Ute, Paiute, Bannock, Blackfeet,Ogalala, Arikara, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce, andMiniconjou. These tribes had rivalries andalliances that sometimes changed and often last-ed for generations.

    Many Native Americans of great prominencecalled Wyoming home. The likes of ChiefWashakie, Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud,Crazy Horse, Dull Knife, White Bull, and BlackHorse inhabited these parts during at least part oftheir lives. Even Sacajawea, the famous guide forLewis and Clark, spent some of her life within thestate’s borders, and is thought by some to havebeen laid to rest near the Wind River Reservation.

    Today, relatively few Native Americansremain in the state, many of who live on thesole protected remnant of their ancestral lands,the Wind River Reservation. They are increas-ingly reclaiming their heritage, and are makingthe most of opportunities to share their tribaltraditions at a number of events and venuesthroughout the state.

    Explorers And Mountain MenJohn Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark

    expedition, was probably the first white man toset foot in Wyoming, investigating the marvels ofYellowstone country in 1808. Over the nextdecade or so, Jacques LaRamee, a French-Canadian trapper traveled extensively in the east-ern part of the state. Thereafter, Wyoming becamethe place many early European adventurers calledhome. Mountain men, in particular, were largelyresponsible for much of the investigation of thestate. Lured here by the promise of riches frombeaver pelts and other wild game, many mencame to Wyoming with the John Jacob Astorexpedition in the 1820s, and never left. WilliamAshley and Andrew Henry led the original party.

    They befriended some Native Americans and

    were often rewarded with wives. In time andthrough often harrowing experience, they becamefamiliar with the wonders and dangers of thismagnificent state. They congregated at eventscalled Rendezvous, exchanging goods, informa-tion, stories, a few punches, and a lot of liquor.These are still celebrated today in their honor, butfighting is now frowned upon. Names such as JimBridger, Kit Carson, and Jedediah Smith markedthe paths that would be trod by Easterners for thenext two centuries and beyond.

    Pioneers And HomesteadersNot far behind the mountain men came pio-

    neers, heading West to make new lives for them-selves in Oregon country and Utah’s Great SaltLake Valley. Crossed by both the Oregon andMormon Trails, innumerable wagons and handcarts traversed Wyoming, leaving ruts in thebedrock still clearly visible over 150 years later.

    Immigrants left their marks in other ways,with names etched on cliffs and scattered graves.Winter in the high plains and mountains washarsh and often sudden, sometimes taking travel-ers by surprise. Martin’s Cove was the site of themost extensive casualties. Disease and the occa-sional Indian raid took their toll as well. Makingit across the state alive was no mean feat.

    As the Utah Territory welcomed more andmore Mormon immigrants, Prophet BrighamYoung sent settlers north into Wyoming to tamethe wild country there. The Mormon pioneerscultivated significant quantities of wilderness,from Fort Bridger to the Star Valley area to theBighorn Basin, where they built an extensivecanal system. They left behind a legacy of hardwork and industry, and built many historic land-marks that still stand today.

    Other settlers came from the East to home-stead in relative peace, including GermanLutherans from Iowa, who farmed land in theBighorn Basin and near the Nebraska border.Their contributions have also stood the test oftime, and made Wyoming part of what it is today.

    The Overland Stage And The Pony ExpressAs traffic increased across Wyoming, a stage

    Devils Tower. One of Wyoming’s most recognizable icons.

    Tumbleweeds congregate along a fence line near Rocky Point.

  • Mill Creek Studios Unbearable — Black Bear BlockDavid Morales, an American artist, designed this alabasterand resin sculpture. Mill Creek Studios, a company knownfor its images of wolves, bears and deer, created this pieceof wildlife art. One side of this sculpture features a blackbear track. Thispiece makes awonderful beargift. Includesauthenticitycoin. 4” tall. Item # GC38081

    Big Sky Carvers Last Glance —Whitetail Deer SculptureMontana artist Dick Idol designed thisserialized and numbered cold castbronze piece for Big Sky Carvers. Made of a bronze and resin mixture, this sculpture makes a great wildlifegift. 17” long, 5” wide,15-3⁄4” tall.

    Item # GC39472

    Marcha Labs 9-OunceWool Wax Crème Perfectfor anyone from gardenersto construction workers, thislanolin-based lotion healscracked skin and protectsfrom dryness. The cleansmell and fast absorptionmake this a great lotion forguys, too. This awesomecream comes from theMontana company MarchaLabs. Item # GC24066

    Huckleberry Haven11-Ounce uckleberryJam Huckleberry Haven,a Western companyknown for its gourmetfood, jams and candy,made this delicious jam.Pair this with theirHuckleberry Honey for a wonderful food gift. Item # GC16561

    Search these items and hundreds more at...

    W W W. G I F T C O R R A L . C O M

    Searching for that perfect western gift or decorative item? Don't miss the huge selectionof quality-crafted items at the Gift Corral. A fullselection of their signature products are availableonline, including handmade bath and body products, Moose Drool novelty items, whimsicalbear and moose figurines, stuffed animals, woodcarvings, Christmas ornaments reflecting theWestern spirit, clothing, antler art, handcraftedjewelry, gourmet foods, Montana Silversmiths items,household décor items ranging from lamps to rusticfurniture to picture frames, and much, much more!

    W W W. G I F T C O R R A L . C O M

  • route was developed, with regular stops for wearytravelers. With the Western population growing,many who rode the trail came to do business, notto settle. The Overland Stage Trail provided easiermobility for both eastern and western journeys.Stagecoaches ran freight and provided protectionas well.

    Many stage stations also served as stopoversfor Pony Express riders, providing fresh horsesfor both. Sometimes, even the stage didn’t travelfast enough for important information to betransmitted from coast to coast. A letter sent byPony Express could travel from New York toCalifornia in about seven or eight days. Riding forthe Pony Express was a dangerous occupation,mostly because riders were on their own, con-fronting uncertain conditions among the Indians,and unpredictable weather. Nevertheless, duringthe eighteen months it was in operation, only tworiders died.

    Treasure Seekers And MinersThe discovery of gold in California sparked a

    new wave of immigration in the 1850s and 60s.The pioneer influx was still ongoing, but now thebyways were also filled with wanderers hoping to“strike it rich“, if not in California then inColorado, Montana, or South Dakota.

    Wyoming, too, had its share of mineralwealth, and mining towns began to take root. Thecommunities would thrive until the mine ran outof whatever it had provided, then the minerswould move on. This was the start of the boomand bust cycle that would continue throughoutWyoming’s development.

    The hunt for gold inspired John Bozeman topioneer a route north through Wyoming to theMontana gold fields. By 1864, the Bozeman Trailwas yet another heavy traffic area across the state.

    The Forts And The Indian WarsAs more and more white people began to

    come into Wyoming, the Native Americansbecame increasingly distressed about the impactthe strangers were having on tribal lands. Sometribes, like the Shoshone under Chief Washakie,

    tried to maintain peaceful relations. Others chafedunder the imposed sanctions, and misunder-standings and conflict became more frequent.

    With the increase in Indian confrontations,the US government began to establish a presencein the area. Various forts, such as Fort Bridgerand Fort Laramie, which had once been merelysupply and trading posts, became barricadedcitadels. Some of the most well known Indianbattles were fought in Wyoming, including thebrutal Fetterman Massacre at Fort Phil Kearney.

    Both sides sustained many casualties in the

    Battle of the Red Buttes at Platte Bridge Station,later called Fort Caspar. The Battle of theRosebud, which happened in the midst of thePowder River Expedition, had Native Americansfighting on both sides. Although the Battle of theLittle Bighorn, or Custer’s Last Stand, took placeacross the Montana border, it was the culminatingcampaign that began with a pioneer’s missing cownear Fort Laramie, and the Grattan Massacre thatfollowed. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody made aname for himself the summer after the LittleBighorn disaster by beating Cheyenne ChiefYellow Hand in one-to-one combat.

    The Railroad And The Telegraph LineTechnology caught up with the call to head

    west, and steam engines became the preferredmethod of travel, telegraph messages the pre-ferred form of communication. Plans were laid fora transcontinental railroad, and the race was onbetween the Eastern and Western builders as theyhurried to meet somewhere in the middle.

    The Union Pacific Railroad, and several small-er railroads such as the Burlington, Northern, andSanta Fe Lines, laid tracks all over the state, creat-ing new “hell on wheels” communities, andbringing a variety of colorful people of differentnationalities to the area. The logging industry andthe coal industry rose up to meet the needs of thegrowing railways. The completion of the railroadin 1869 brought ever-greater numbers ofEasterners to the west.

    Before the railroad was finished, the state wasfilled with telegraph lines and offices, mostlywhere the stage and Pony Express stops hadbeen. Mail delivered by Pony Express had takenabout a week to arrive. With the telegraph, mes-sages could be sent almost instantaneously. Eastand West were connected like never before.

    Cattle And CowboysAs the Eastern states filled with people, range-

    land became harder and harder to find. Texas cat-tlemen, in particular, were on the lookout for newterritory where their herds could graze cheaply,






    Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

    North of Rawlins.

    Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway west of Cody.

  • unmolested. Pioneering ranchers like NelsonStory blazed the Texas Trail north, throughOklahoma and Colorado into the open rangecountry of Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas.With the stabilizing presence of the army and thefreight options brought by the railroad, Wyomingbecame ideal cattle country. Huge ranching com-panies sprung up, like the Swan Land and CattleCompany, and the Pitchfork and Sun Ranches.

    With the cattle came the cowboys, tough andhard living, who made an art of the business oftending the herds. From their broad-brimmedhats, high-heeled boots, chaps and spurs, to theirhorsemanship, skills with ropes, and understand-ing of animals and nature, the cowboy became abreed apart. They lead a harsh and lonely exis-tence, spending endless days on the windswept,open range, living off trail food and sleeping bysolitary campfires. The cowboy becameWyoming’s icon because Wyoming made himwho he was.

    Cattle ranching was so profitable during thelate 1800s that it made many men rich. Othermen, who were already rich, such as noblemenand aristocrats from Europe, found it useful toinvest in the cattle industry. For either or perhapsboth reasons, the most successful ranchersbecame known as “cattle barons.”

    The cattle barons had a great deal of influencein territorial politics and were able to strong-armmany agricultural settlers into giving up theirland. Accusations of cattle rustling were rampant.Hired guns, known as “range detectives”, intimi-dated homesteaders, and occasionally hung orshot someone. Tom Horn, Cattle Kate, andCalamity Jane became notorious for their roles inthe range wars.

    Sheep And SheepherdersThe cattlemen met their match with the

    advent of the sheep industry. Sheep were consid-ered by some to be a more profitable investmentbecause they provided two commodities: wooland lambs, and the wool was a renewableresource. Experienced European sheepherders,

    including many Basques from the Pyrenees, cameto Wyoming to work for sheep ranchers.

    Sheep ranching began to rival cattle ranchingfor power and money, but the real rivalry wasover the rangeland and grazing rights.Eventually, tensions between the two industriesand homesteaders escalated from hired gunsmaking specific “hits” to an all out war inJohnson County. Federal troops had to be sentin to settle the raging dispute.

    The Equality StateWyoming made leaps in pioneering women’s

    rights while it was still a territory. With such ascattered population, every able-bodied person

    had value. Wyoming became the first governmententity in the world to grant women the vote andthe right to hold office, as well as allowing themto own property in their own name.

    The first female voter, perhaps in the entireworld, was “Grandma” Louisa A. Swain ofLaramie. The first female jurors in the world,Eliza Stewart, Amelia Hatcher, C.H. Hilton, MaryMackel, Agnes Baker, and Sarah Pease, attended atrial in Laramie also. Wyoming had the firstfemale Justice of the Peace in the world, EstherMorris, in South Pass City, and the first femalegovernor in the US, Nellie Tayloe Ross, ran thestate after her husband died in office. Jacksonbecame to first town in the country to elect agroup of city officials who were all women in1920. Wyoming continues to be a place wherewomen have great value.

    OutlawsThis rough country attracted many rough

    characters through the years, including:Butch Cassidy (Robert Leroy Parker)The Sundance Kid (Harry Longabaugh)Kid Curry (Harry Logan)“Flat Nose” George CurrieWilliam C. “Teton” Jackson (Harvey Gleason)James Butler “Wild Bill” HickokTom HornJohn Henry “Doc” HollidayCattle Kate (Ellen Watson)Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary)Jesse JamesFrank James (Jesse’s brother)“Big Nose George” Parrott (George Manuse)“Dutch Charley” BurrisBill Carlisle, Wyoming’s (and perhaps the

    West’s) last great “gentleman” train robber, whopolitely held up passengers several times between1916 and 1919. He later was caught and servedtime in jail as a model prisoner.

    WIDE OPEN SPACESWhile traveling on the backroads, you will some-times get a sense that nobody lives here. You cantravel for miles without seeing any sign of civi-




    Somewhere near Split Rock.

    West of Dayton.

  • lization beyond the occasional small herds of cat-tle. In many parts of the state, oil wells outnum-ber people. Occupied houses are rare andoutnumbered by abandoned homesteaders shacksand log cabins. Fences often disappear entirelyand are replaced by the infrequent “Open Range”signs that warn you cattle may be having theirmid-day siesta in the middle of the road.

    None-the-less, most of this land is privatelyowned unless posted otherwise. Before aban-doning your car and heading out across theseopen spaces, it's a good idea and common cour-tesy to find the property owner and get permis-sion. If you see fenceposts or gates with brightorange blazes, then getting permission isn't anoption. They mean “no trespassing” in nouncertain terms.

    However, I've never been shot at for stoppingthe car, getting out and smelling the sage, listen-ing to the sound of silence, or to the voice of thewind, or the gurgle of a stream, the howl of acoyote, or the unidentified song of a prairie bird.I've never been asked to move along when I'vestopped to admire a sunset, or simply marvel atthe splendor of the endless sky.

    Most of those that have bought and paid fora piece of this marvelous state don't mind shar-ing it with those who come to visit. They simplyask that you respect it and leave no trace youwere there.

    THE ROADSGravel roads are the rule rather than the excep-tion in this part of the country. Almost all ofWyoming’s paved roads are well maintained.There are posted speed limits and they are vigor-ously enforced. Be prepared at any time to slow down for riderson horseback. Most horses are accustomed tocars, but can spook if you drive too near. Much ofwyoming is open range. Cattle may be grazing onthe road. A head-on with a steer can be just asdeadly as a head-on with another automobile.

    And speaking of cattle, don’t be surprised ifyou come upon a cattle drive. If you do, follow

    the instructions of the drovers. They will makeevery effort to clear a path to allow youthrough. Usually the cattle just part ways andmake a path, but don’t go on unless you’regiven instructions to.

    Beware of black ice! This is a virtually invisi-ble layer of ice that forms on road surfaces after afog. Be particularly careful of stretches of roadthat parallel rivers and creeks. The early morningfog rising from them can settle on the road freez-ing instantly. If you feel yourself sliding, tap yourbrakes gently. If you slam on the brakes, it’s allbut over. Gently steer into the direction of yourskid (if your back end is going right—steer right).

    GumboWe gave this subject its own headline. It is

    very important that you read it—and heed it.While Wyoming isn't the only state that has

    gumbo, it has its fair share. If you become a resi-dent, it is one of the first things you develop arespect (a healthy respect) for. Grizzlys and rat-tlesnakes might be the hazards you're warned of,but gumbo is the one that will get you.

    You'll find it mostly in the eastern half of thestate. It lies in wait on what in dry weatherappears to be an ordinary rock hard dirt road.Your first clue is the occasional sign that readsRoad Impassable When Wet. This is a clear under-statement. When these roads become even mildlywet, they turn into a monster that swallows allsizes of vehicles—and yes, even 4-wheel driveSUVs. Think you'll get a tow? Forget it. No towtruck operator with a higher IQ than dirt willventure onto it until it dries. If you walk on it,you will grow six inches taller and gain 25pounds all on the bottom of your shoes. It cancoat your tires until they won’t turn anymore. Ofcourse, this is if it doesn't swallow you whole firstlike an unsuspecting native in a Tarzan moviewho steps into quicksand.

    Bottomline, heed the signs. If it looks likerain, head for the nearest paved road. When itcomes to swallowing things whole, theBermuda Triangle is an amateur compared toWyoming Gumbo.


    Topographic FeaturesWyoming’s outstanding features are its majes-

    tic mountains and high plains. Its mean elevationis about 6,700 feet above sea level and even whenthe mountains are excluded, the average elevationover the southern part of the State is well over6,000 feet, while much of the northern portion issome 2,500 feet lower. The lowest point, 3,125feet, is near the northeast corner where the BelleFourche River crosses the State line into SouthDakota. The highest point is Gannett Peak at13,785 feet, which is part of the Wind RiverRange in the west-central portion. Since themountain ranges lie in a general north-southdirection, they are perpendicular to the prevailingwesterlies, therefore, the mountain ranges provideeffective barriers which force the air currentsmoving in from the Pacific Ocean to rise anddrop much of their moisture along the westernslopes. The State is considered semiarid east ofthe mountains. There are several mountainranges, but the mountains themselves cover lessarea than the high plains. The topography andvariations in elevation make it difficult to dividethe State into homogeneous, climatological areas.

    The Continental Divide splits the State fromnear the northwest corner to the center of thesouthern border. This leaves most of the drainageareas to the east. The run-off drains into threegreat river systems: the Columbia, the Colorado,and the Missouri. The Snake with its tributariesin the northwest flows into the Columbia; theGreen River drains most of the Southwest portion

    and joins the Colorado: the Yellowstone, WindRiver, Big Horn, Tongue, and Powder drainageareas cover most of the north portion and flownorthward into the Missouri; the Belle Fourche,Cheyenne, and Niobrara covering the east-centralportion, flow eastward: while the Platte drains thesoutheast and flows eastward into Nebraska.There is a relatively small area along the south-west border that is drained by the Bear whichflows into the Great Salt Lake. In the south-cen-tral portion west of Rawlins, there is an areacalled the Great Divide Basin. Part of this area isoften referred to as the Red Desert. There is nodrainage from this Basin and precipitation, whichaverages only 7 to 10 inches annually, followscreekbeds to ponds or small lakes where it eitherevaporates or percolates into the ground.

    Snow accumulates to considerable depths inthe high mountains and many of the streams fedby the melting snow furnish ample quantities of






    Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

    Fall colors near Laramie. Photo courtesy ofLaramie Area Chamber of Commerce.

    Ayres Natural Bridge.

  • Growing SeasonEarly freezes in the fall and late in the spring

    are characteristic. This results in long winters andshort growing seasons. However, it is a county ofrapid changes through the fall, winter, and springseasons, with frequent variations from cold tomild periods. The average growing season (freeze-free period) for the principal agricultural areas isapproximately 125 days. For hardier plants whichcan stand a temperature of 28° F, or slightly lower,the growing season is the agricultural areas east ofthe Divide is approximately 145 days. In themountains and high valleys freezing temperaturesmay occur any time during the summer. For ten-der plants there is practically no growing seasonin such areas as the upper Green River Valley, theStar Valley and Jackson Hole. At Farson nearSandy Creek, a tributary of the Green River, theaverage is 42 days between the last temperature of32° F in early summer and the first freeze in latesummer. For the places like the Star Valley andJackson Hole, the growing season is even shorter.

    SunshineFor most of the State, sunshine ranges from

    60 percent of the possible amount during thewinter to about 75 percent during the summer.Mountain areas receive less, and in the wintertimethe estimated amount over the northwesternmountains is about 45 percent. In the summer-time when sunshine is greatest – not only in timebut also intensity – it is characteristic for themornings to be mostly clear. Cumulus cloudsdevelop nearly every day and frequently blot outthe sun for a portion of the afternoons. Becausethe altitude provides less atmosphere for the sun’srays to penetrate and because of the very smallamount of fog, haze, and smoke, the intensity ofsunshine in unusually high.

    PrecipitationLike other states in the west, precipitation

    varies a great deal from one location to another.The period of maximum precipitation occurs inthe spring and early summer for most of theState. Precipitation is greater over the mountain

    ranges and usually at the higher elevations,although elevation alone is not the predominantinfluence. For example, over most of the south-west portion, where the elevation ranges from6,500 to 8,500 feet, annual precipitation variesfrom 7 to 10 inches. At lower elevations over thenortheast portion and along the eastern border,where elevations are mostly in the range from4,000 to 5,500 feet, annual averages are from 12to 16 inches. The relatively dry southwest por-tion is a high plateau nearly surrounded bymountain ranges.

    The Big Horn Basin provides a striking exam-ple of the effect of mountain ranges in blockingthe flow of moisture laden air from the east aswell as from the west. The lower portion of theBasin has an annual precipitation of 5 to 8 inch-es, and it is the driest part of the State. The sta-tion showing the least amount is Seaver at 4,105feet with an annual mean of about 5.50 inches.In the southern part of the Basin, Worland at4,061 feet has an annual mean of 7 to 8 inchesas compared with Termopolis at 4,313 feet and11 to 12 inches. There is another good examplein the southeastern part of the State whereLaramie at 7,236 feet has an annual mean of 10inches, while 30 miles to the west, Centennial at8,074 feet receives about 16 inches. Only a fewlocations receive as much as 40 inches a year,based on gauge records.

    During the summer, showers are quite fre-quent but often amount to only a few hundredthsof an inch. Occasionally there will be some veryheavy rain associated with thunderstorms cover-ing a few square miles. There are usually severallocal storms each year with from 1 to 2 inches ofrain in a 24-hour period. On rare occasions, 24-hour amounts range from 3 to 5 inches. Thegreatest 24-hour total recorded for any place inWyoming is 5.50 inches at Dull Center, nearNewcastle, on May 31, 1927.

    Humidity and EvaporationThe average relative humidity is quite low

    and provides delightful summer weather. During

    water for irrigation of thousands of acres of land.The snowmelt also furnishes the water to gener-ate electric power, and for domestic use.

    Rapid run-off from heavy rain during thun-derstorms causes flash flooding on the headwaterstreams, and when the time of these storms coin-cides with the melting of the snow pack, theflooding is intensified. When overflow occurs inthe vicinity of urban communities situated nearthe streams considerable damage results.

    TemperatureBecause of its elevation, Wyoming has a rela-

    tively cool climate. Above the 6,000 feet level thetemperature rarely exceeds 100° F. The warmestparts of the State are the lower portions of por-tions of the Big Horn Basin, the lower elevationsof the central and northeast portions, and alongthe east border. The highest recorded temperaturewas 114° F on July 12, 1900, at Basin in the BigHorn Basin. The average maximum temperatureat Basin in July is 92° F. For most of the State,mean maximum temperatures in July rangebetween 85 and 95° F. With increasing elevation,average values drop rapidly. A few places in themountains at about the 9,000 foot level haveaverage maximums in July close to 70° F. Summernights are almost invariably cool, even thoughdaytime readings may be quite high at times. Formost places away from the mountains, the meanminimum temperature in July ranges from 50 to60 ° F. Of course, the mountains and high valleysare much cooler with average lows in the middleof the summer in the 30s and 40s with occasionaldrops below freezing.

    In the wintertime it is characteristic to haverapid and frequent changes between mild andcold spells. Usually there are less than 10 coldwaves during a winter, and frequently less thanhalf that number for most of the State. Themajority of cold waves move southward on theeast side of the Divide. Sometimes only the north-east part of the State is affected by the cold air asit slides eastward over the plains. Many of thecold waves are not accompanied by enough snowto cause severe conditions. In January, the coldestmonth generally, man minimum temperaturesrange mostly from 5 to 10° F. In the western val-leys mean values go down to about 5° belowzero. The record low for the State is -66° Fobserved February 9, 1933, at Yellowstone Park.During warm spells in the winter, nighttime tem-peratures frequently remain above freezing.Chinooks, warm downslope winds, are commonalong the eastern slopes.

    Numerous valleys provide ideal pockets forthe collection of cold air drainage at night.Protecting mountain ranges prevent the windfrom stirring the air, and the colder heavier airsettles into the valleys often sending readingswell below zero. It is common to have tempera-tures in the valleys considerably lower than onthe nearby mountain side. Big Piney in theGreen River Valley is such a location. MeanJanuary temperatures in the Big Horn Basinshow the variation between readings in thelower part of the valley and those higher up. AtWorland and Basin in the lower portion of theBig Horn Basin, not far from the 4,000 footlevel, the mean minimum temperature forJanuary is zero, while Cody, close to 5,000 feeton the west side of the valley has a meanJanuary minimum of 11° F. January, the coldestmonth, has occasional mild periods when maxi-mum readings will reach the 50s; however, win-ters are usually long and cold.




    Miner’s Delight, the childhood home of Calamity Jane, is now a quiet ghost town.

  • the warmer part of the summer days, the humidi-ty drops to about 25 to 30 percent, and on a fewoccasions it will be as low as 5 to 10 percent. Lateat night when the temperature is lowest, thehumidity will generally rise to 65 or 75 percent.This results in an average diurnal variation ofabout 40 to 45 percent during the summer, butin the winter the variation is much less. Low rela-tive humidity, high percentage of sunshine, andrather high average winds all contribute to a highrate of evaporation. Because of frequent spells offreezing weather before May 1 and afterSeptember 30, it is difficult to obtain consistentrecords of evaporation for more than the 5-monthperiod from May through September. For thisperiod, the average amount of evaporation isapproximately 41 inches, as determined fromevaporation pans at a few selected locations. Theoverall range is from 30 to about 50 inches.

    Severe StormsHailstorms are the most destructive type of

    local storm for this State, and every year damageto crops and property from hail amount to manythousands ofdollars. Occasionally a hailstorm willpass over a city and cause severe damage. Most ofthe hailstorms pass over the open rangeland anddamage is slight, although in small areas of cropproducing land, some farmers occasionally losean entire crop by hail.

    Tornadoes occur, but records show they aremuch less frequent and destructive than thosethat occur in the Midwest. The relatively smallamount of destruction is partly due to the factthat most of Wyoming is open range country andsparsely populated. However, records show thattornadoes which occur here are somewhat smallerand have a shorter duration. Many of them touchthe ground for only a few minutes before reced-ing into the clouds. The season extends fromApril through September. June has the greatestnumber on the average with May next and mostoccur in the eastern part of the State.

    Wyoming is quite windy, and during thewinter there are frequent periods when thewind reaches 30 to 40 miles per hour withgusts to 50 or 60. Prevailing directions in thedifferent localities vary form west-south-westthrough west to northwest. In many localitieswinds are so strong and constant from thosedirections that trees show a definite leantowards the east or southeast.

    Snow and BlizzardsSnow falls frequently from November through

    May and at lower elevations is light to moderate.About five times a year on the average, stations atthe lower elevations will have snowfall exceeding5 inches. Falls of 10 to 15 inches or more for asingle storm occur but are infrequent outside of

    the mountains. Wind will frequently accompanyof follow a snowstorm and pile the snow intodrifts several feet deep. The snow sometimesdrifts so much that it is difficult to obtain anaccurate measurement of snowfall. An unusuallyheavy snow occurred at Sheridan on the 3rd and4th of April 1955. During this period the snow-fall amounted to 39.0 inches, had a water equiva-lent of 4.30 inches and blizzard conditions lastedmore than 43 hours. High winds and low temper-atures with snow cause blizzard or near blizzardconditions. These conditions sometimes last aday or two, but it is uncommon for a severe bliz-zard to last over three days.

    Total annual snowfall varies considerably. Atthe lower elevations in the east, the range is from60 to 70 inches. Over the drier southwest por-tion, amounts vary from 45 to 55 inches. Snow isvery light in the Big Horn Basin with annual aver-ages from 15 to 20 inches over the lower portionand 30 to 40 inches on the sides of the Basinwhere elevations range from 5,000 to 6,000 feet.The mountains receive a great deal more and inthe higher ranges annual amounts are well over200 inches. At Beckler River Ranger Station in thesouthwest corner of Yellowstone Park, the snow-fall averages 262 inches for a 20-year period.

    The weather pattern most favorable for pre-cipitation is one with a low-pressure center a littleto the south of the State. This will normally pro-vide a condition where relatively cool air at thesurface is overrun by warmer moist air. Studies ofwind flow patterns indicate that Wyoming is cov-ered most of the time by air from the Pacific. Asmaller percentage of time the State is covered bycold air masses that move down from Canada.

    AgricultureMost of the State has been subjected to ero-

    sion for tens of thousands of years and less than10 percent is covered with a mantle of recent(geologically speaking) water-transported soil.The lack of such soil and adequate moisture lim-its the natural vegetation to hardy plants, such assagebrush, greasewood, and short grass. Low rela-tive humidity and the high rate of evaporationadd to the problem. A number of abandonedhomesteads of onetime enthusiastic settlers bearsilent testimony to the lack of moisture. Even so,dryland farming is carried on successfully insome areas. Approximately 42 percent of theState’s total area is privately-owned land, themajority of which is used for grazing, althoughsome is timberland. The fact that most of theState is still Government-owned attests to thesemiarid climate which has make the land lessattractive to homesteaders. Nearly 4 percent ofthe State is cultivated cropland, including bothirrigated and nonirrigated. Another 13 percent iscovered with forests, while parks and recreationalareas take up about 4 percent.

    The majority of the State is used for grazingand has a general appearance of dryness most ofthe time. The more abundant spring moisturebrings a greener landscape often with myriad,varicolored wild flowers. As the season mergesinto summer, grasses and flowers turn brown, butcontinue to serve as food for livestock. Nativegrasses are nutritious, although scant. There aresome very fine grazing areas with luxuriant grass-es, especially in or near the mountains. Grass isgenerally so scarce that large ranches are requiredfor profitable operation. The average for most cat-tle grazing is about 35 to 40 acres per cow. Themountain areas provide timber and a storageplace for the winter snows which in the springand summer feed lakes and reservoirs used in the






    Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia


    NATIVES ARE:Dick Cheney, Vice President under President

    George H.W. Bush

    Lynne Cheney, author

    Dean Conger, photo chief for NationalGeographic Magazine

    Roulon Gardner, first man from Wyoming to win an Olympic gold metal in wrestling(Sydney, Australia, 2000 games)

    Tom Browning, baseball player

    Jim Bridger, frontiersman

    Elas Spear Byron, photographer of CusterBattlefield survivors

    Buffalo Bill Cody, entertainer and formerPony Express Rider

    John Colter, first white man to enter Wyoming

    Crazy Horse, Indian leader (Ogalala Sioux)

    Peggy Simpson Curry, poet and author

    Mike Devereaux, baseball player

    Lavina Dobler, author

    Thomas Fitzpatrick, mountain man

    Harrison Ford, actor

    Curt Gowdy, sportscaster

    James Herdt, Master Chief Petty Officer ofthe Navy

    Tom Horn, purportedly the fastest gun in thewest

    Isabel Jewell, actress

    Mike Lansing, baseball player

    Chris Ledoux, country music artist and rodeocowboy

    Thomas Moran, artist from England

    Ester Morris, first woman judge

    Edgar Wilson, known as Bill Nye, humoristand author

    Ted Olson, writer

    James Cash Penny, founder of JC PenneyStores

    Frances Warren Pershing, wife of General Pershing

    Jackson Pollock, abstract artist

    Conrad Schwiering, western artist

    Jedediah Smith, mountain man

    Gerry Spence, lawyer

    Nellie Tayloe Ross, first woman electedGovernor of a state

    Willis VandeVanter, Supreme Court Justice

    Francis E. Warren, first state governor

    Chief Washakie, Chief of the EasternShoshone

    James G. Watt, former Secretary of theInterior

    Ella Watson (aka Cattle Kate), frontier legend

    Darrel Winfield “Marlboro Man”, advertising cowboy

    Pete Williams, NBC correspondent

    Lucille Wright, pilot

    Owen Wister, author, The Virginian.

  • irrigations districts. Most of the irrigated land islocated in the valleys of the following river sys-tems and their tributaries: North Platte, WindRiver, Big Horn, Tongue, and Green. Principalcrops in the irrigation districts are sugar beets,beans, potatoes, and hay. On the nonirrigatedland the principal crops are hay and small grains,such as wheat, barley, and oats.

    Tourism is increasingly important toWyoming’s economy and millions of persons,including many sportsmen, visit the State annu-ally to enjoy Yellowstone and Grand TetonNational Parks.Weather article provided by National Climatic Data Center

    THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM“I should compare the (South) pass to the ascent of thecapitol hill from the avenue at Washington.”- John Fremont, 1843, describing the ease ofusing South Pass to cross the Rocky Mountains

    In 1800, America’s western border reachedonly as far as the Mississippi River. Following theLouisiana Purchase in 1803 the country nearlydoubled in size, pushing the nation’s westernedge past the Rocky Mountains.

    Yet the wilderness known as Oregon Country(which included present-day Oregon, Washingtonand part of Idaho) still belonged to the British, afact that made many Americans eager to settle theregion and claim it for the United States.

    American Indians had traversed this countryfor many years, but for whites it was unknownterritory. Lewis and Clark’s secretly funded expe-dition in 1803 was part of a U.S. Governmentplan to open Oregon Country to settlement.However, the hazardous route blazed by thisparty was not feasible for families traveling bywagon. An easier trail was needed.

    Robert Stewart of the Astorians (a group offur traders who established Fort Astoria in west-ern Oregon’s Columbia River) became the firstwhite to use what later became known as theOregon Trail. Stewart’s 2,000-mile journey fromFort Astoria to St. Louis in 1910 took 10 months

    to complete; still, it was a much less rugged trailthan Lewis and Clark’s route.

    It wasn’t until 1836 that the first wagons wereused on the trek from Missouri to Oregon. A mis-sionary party headed by Marcus Whitman and hiswife Narcissa bravely set out to reach theWillamette Valley. Though the Whitmans wereforced to abandon their wagons 200 miles shortof Oregon, they proved that families could gowest by wheeled travel.

    In the spring of 1843, a wagon train of nearly1,000 people organized at Independence,Missouri with plans to reach Oregon Country.Amidst an overwhelming chorus of naysayerswho doubted their success, the so-called “GreatMigration” made it safely to Oregon. Crucial totheir success was the use of South Pass, a 12-milewide valley that was virtually the sole placebetween the plains and Oregon where wagonscould cross the formidable Rocky Mountains.

    By 1846, thousands of emigrants who weredrawn west by cheap land, patriotism or thepromise of a better life found their way to OregonCountry. With so many Americans settling theregion, it became obvious to the British thatOregon was no longer theirs. They ceded OregonCountry to the United States that year.

    “When you start over these wide plains, let no oneleave dependent on his best friend for anything; for ifyou do, you will certainly have a blow-out before youget far.” —John Shivley, 1846

    Before railroads or automobiles, people inAmerica had to travel by foot, horse, boat orwagon. Some of these routes from our nation’searly days still remain today as reminders of ourhistoric past. A National Historic Trail (NHT)such as the Oregon NHT is an extended trail thatfollows original routes of travel of national histor-ical significance.

    In 1995, the National Park Service establishedthe National Trails System Office in Salt Lake City,Utah. The Salt Lake City Trails Office administersthe Oregon, the California, the Mormon Pioneerand the Pony Express NHTs.

    The National Trails System does not manage

    trail resources on a day-to-day basis. The respon-sibility for managing trail resources remains in thehands of the current trail managers at the federal,state, local and private levels.

    The Office was established to improve inter-state and interregional coordination. Specificresponsibilities of this trails office include coordi-nating and supporting the protection of trailresources, marking and interpreting the trails,designating and marking an auto-tour route andidentifying and certifying high-potential sites.

    In 1968, Congress enacted the National TrailsSystem Act and in 1978, National Historic Traildesignations were added. The National HistoricTrails System commemorates these historic routesand promotes their preservation, interpretationand appreciation.

    National Historic Trails recognize diversefacets of history such as prominent past routes ofexploration, migration, trade, communication andmilitary action. The historic trails generally con-sist of remnant sites and trail segments, and thusare not necessarily contiguous. Although NationalHistoric Trails are administered by federal agen-cies, land ownership may be in public or privatehands. Of the 11 National Historic Trails, nine areadministered by the National Park Service, one bythe USDA Forest Service and one by the Bureauof Land Management.

    If Americans today were to undertake a four-month, 2,000-mile journey on foot without theaid of modern conveniences, many would be infor a harsh jolt. Despite the lingering romancewith which many view the emigrant tide on theOregon Trail, the journey was tough.

    Emigrants traveled under the dual yoke offear and withering physical requirements.Rumors of hostile Indians coupled with unfor-giving country, disease and dangerous workmade life difficult.

    Yet thousands did make it to Oregon. Whatwas their journey like on a day-to-day basis?

    First of all, timing was important to the emi-grants’ success in reaching Oregon. The mostfavorable time to depart from Missouri was inApril or May. This would put them on scheduleto make the high mountain passes when winter




    Jackelopes can be found everywhere in Wyoming,but Douglas is the home of the rabbit king.

    National Trailsin WyomingBLM Map

  • snows would not be a threat.Mistakes were often made before the journey

    even began. In preparing for the trip, many emi-grants overloaded their wagons with supplies. Asa result, not long after leaving Missouri, dumpingexcess items was a common sight along the trail.Tools, guns and food were considered vital—heir-looms were not.

    The relatively gentle first leg of the routealong the Platte River was a time for the emi-grants to settle into travel mode. This meant get-ting used to hitching and unhitching the oxen,cattle and mules whenever a stop was made -hard and dangerous work. It also meant constantwagon maintenance, foraging for firewood andclean water, cooking over open fires and learninghow to break and set camp every day.

    When emigrants reached Chimney Rock andScotts Bluff, their journey was one-third over. Butmore challenging terrain lay ahead as water, fire-wood and supply depots became more scarce.Buffalo herds that initially were a dependablefood source for the emigrants also thinned outdue to excessive killing.

    The challenge of crossing many rivers and theContinental Divide created other severe tests forthe emigrants. Summer temperatures, miles ofshadeless trail and choking dust compounded tomake life decidedly unenjoyable. Though con-frontations with Indians were rare, the fear ofattack was a constant worry.

    The last leg of the trail was the most difficult.But thoughts of approaching winter snows keptemigrants motivated to move as quickly as possi-ble. The Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon andthe Cascade range in the west presented barriersthat slowed progress.

    Upon reaching Oregon City, the emigrantswere faced with either taking their chances on thedangerous Columbia River, or, starting in 1846,taking the safer but longer Barlow Road. SamBarlow’s toll road became the preferred route forthe emigrants. Finally, if money, animals, wagons,supplies and morale held out, the emigrantsreached the Willamette Valley.

    THE MORMAN TRAILTo the sounds of snapping harness and creakingwagon wheels the pioneers in the vanguard ofwestward expansion moved out across the NorthAmerican continent. Between 1840 and 1870,more than 500,000 emigrants went west alongthe Great Platte River Road from departure pointsalong the Missouri River. This corridor had beenused for thou- sands of years by AmericanIndians and in the mid-19th century became thetransportation route for successive waves ofEuropean trappers, missionaries, soldiers, team-sters, stage coach drivers, Pony Express riders,and overland emigrants bound for opportunity inthe Oregon Territory, the Great Basin, and theCalifornia gold fields.

    The trunk of the corridor generally followedthe Platte and North Platte rivers for more than600 miles, then paralleled the Sweetwater Riverbefore crossing the Continental Divide at SouthPass. Beyond South Pass the route divided severaltimes, each branch pioneered by emigrants seek-ing a better way to various destinations. Theroute’s importance declined with the completionof the transcontinental railroad in 1869 but con-tinued to receive limited use into the early 1900s.

    The Mormon Pioneer TrailFew years in the Far West were more notable

    than 1846. That year saw a war start withMexico, the Donner-Reed party embark on theirinfamous journey into a frozen world of inde-scribable horror, and the beginning of the bestorganized mass migration in American history.The participants of this migration, the Mormons,would establish thriving communities in whatwas considered by many to be a worthless desert.

    From 1846 to 1869, more than 70,000Mormons traveled along an integral part of theroad west, the Mormon Pioneer Trail. The trailstarted in Nauvoo, Illinois, traveled across Iowa,connected with the Great Platte River Road at theMissouri River, and ended near the Great SaltLake in Utah. Generally following pre-existing






    Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

    The oil well is ubiquitous throughout the state.

    routes the trail carried tens of thousands ofMormon emigrants to a new home and refuge inthe Great Basin. From their labors arose the Stateof Deseret, later becoming the Utah Territory, andfinally the State of Utah.

    The Trail ExperienceThe Mormon pioneers shared similar experi-

    ences with others traveling west: the drudgery ofwalking hundreds of miles, suffocating dust, vio-lent thunderstorms, mud, temperature extremes,bad water, poor forage, sickness, and death. Theyrecorded their experiences in journals, diaries,and letters that have become a part of ournational heritage.

    The Mormons, however, were a unique partof this migration. Their move to the Valley of theGreat Salt Lake was not entirely voluntary; but tomaintain a religious and cultural identity it wasnecessary to find an isolated area where they


    Nellie Ross took the oath of office asGovernor of Wyoming in January, 1925, thefirst woman governor in the United States.Mrs. Ross was later the first woman directorof the U. S. Mint in Washington, D.C.

    Irene Kinnear Mead was the first Shoshonewoman elected to a Tribal Council.

    Ella Mae “Cattle Kate” Watson, accused ofcattle rustling, was the only woman everlynched in Wyoming.

    Narcissa Prentiss Whitman and Eliza HartSpalding, missionaries, were the first whitewomen in Wyoming.

    Mrs. Esther Morris of SOUTH PASS CITY wasthe first female Justice of the Peace in theU.S., commissioned in 1870.

    The first woman to cast her general electionballot in the nation was Eliza Swain ofLARAMIE.

    Women of Wyoming were granted suffrage in1869, 21 years before the U.S. grantedwomen the right to vote and hold office.

    The first women jurors were in Wyoming,beginning in 1870.

    The first woman in the country to be electedto a state office was Estelle Reel, electedSuperintendent of Public Instruction in 1894.

    Mary Bellamy, a Democrat from LARAMIE,was the first woman elected to a state legis-lature in the country. The election was in1911.

    Susan Wissler, elected mayor of DAYTON in1911, was the country’s first female in thatposition.

    Rose Marshall was the first white baby bornin Yellowstone National Park.

    The nation’s first female prison chaplain, Mrs.May Slosson, served at the LaramiePenetentiary in 1899.

    Lorraine Lindaley, stationed at the MedicineBow Peak Lookout in 1921, west of LARAMIE,was the world’s first female fire lookout.

  • could permanently settle and practice their reli-gion in peace. This movement of an entire peo-ple, an entire religion, and culture was driven bypersecution, religious fervor, and determination.

    The Mormon pioneers learned quickly to bewell-organized. They traveled in semi-militaryfashion, grouped into companies of 100s, 50s,and 1Os. Discipline, hard work, mutual assis-tance, and devotional practices were part of theirdaily routine on the trail. Knowing that otherswould follow, they improved the trail and builtsupport facilities. Businesses, such as ferries,were established to help finance the movement.They did not hire professional guides. Instead,they followed existing trails, used maps andaccounts of early explorers, and gathered infor-mation from travelers and frontiersmen they metalong the way. An early odometer was designedand built to record their mileage while travelingon the trail. In the end, strong group unity andorganization made the Mormon movement moreorderly and efficient than other emigrants travel-ing to Oregon and California.

    The Mormon ChurchThe Mormon pioneer experience is closely

    tied to the formation, growth, and developmentof the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,which was founded by Joseph Smith, April 6,1830, in Fayette, New York. According to theaccounts of Mormon history, Joseph Smith trans-lated a document from golden plates given to himby an angel. This document, The Book ofMormon, a record of Christ visiting America,became the cornerstone of the new religion. Thename Mormon was applied to those who sub-scribed to these beliefs.

    Driven from New York by detractors, thechurch headquarters subsequently moved to Ohio,Missouri, and, in the spring of 1839, to Nauvoo,Illinois. It remained there until 1846, whenincreasing hostility caused the church to movebeyond the Rocky Mountains into then unsettledMexican territory in the Great Basin. There,Mormon leaders hoped to be insulated from fur-ther harassment, antagonism, and persecution.

    Membership grew rapidly from 1830 to1845, and the church prospered. Hostility, fear,and controversy, however, surrounded thechurch. The rapid growth of church member-ship, the financial success of the members andthe church, religious beliefs that were outsidemainstream Christian tradition, the practice ofplural marriage (polygamy), a large well-armedmilitia, the blurring of lines between churchand state, and the perception by some non-Mormons that the church was a threat all fueledintolerance. Hostilities escalated, and on June27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrumwere killed by an angry mob while jailed inCarthage, Illinois.

    By 1845, the Mormon population in andaround Nauvoo had grown to more than11,000, making it one of the largest cities in thestate. In September of that year, foes burnedmore than 200 Mormon homes and farm build-ings outside Nauvoo in an attempt to force theMormons to leave.

    A move to the Far West had been discussedby church leaders as early as 1842, with Oregon,California, and Texas considered as potentialdestinations. In 1844, Joseph Smith obtainedJohn C. Fremont’s map and report, whichdescribed the Great Salt Lake and its surround-ing fertile valleys. Subsequently, the RockyMountains and the Great Basin became theprime candidates for settlement.

    Establishing the Trail: The Treks of 1846 and 1847

    The initial movement of the Mormons fromNauvoo, Illinois, to the Valley of the Great SaltLake occurred in two segments: one in 1846 andone in 1847. The first segment, across Iowa to theMissouri River, covered around 265 miles. The sec-ond segment, from the Missouri River to the Valleyof the Great Salt Lake, covered about 1,032 miles.

    The Trek of 1846The departure from Nauvoo began on

    February 4, 1846, under the leadership ofBrigham Young, who succeeded Joseph Smith asleader of the Mormon Church. After crossing the




    Traffic can often be heavy on Wyoming roads. Watch for merging traffic on all open highways.

    Mississippi River, the journey across Iowa fol-lowed primitive territorial roads and Indian trails.The initial party reached the Missouri River onJune 14 of that year, having taken more than fourmonths to complete the trip. Some of the emi-grants established a settlement called Kanesvilleon the Iowa side of the river. Others movedacross the river into the area of present-day(north) Omaha, Nebraska, building a camp calledWinter Quarters.

    The Mormons left Nauvoo earlier thanplanned because of the revocation of their citycharter, growing rumors of U.S. governmentintervention, and fears that federal troops wouldmarch on the city. This early departure exposedthem to the elements in the worst of winter.Heavy rains later turned the rolling plains ofsouthern Iowa into a quagmire of axle-deep mud.Furthermore, few people carried adequate provi-sions for the trip. The weather, general unpre-paredness, and lack of experience in moving sucha large group of people, all contributed to the dif-ficulties they endured.

    Along this first part of the trail, the Mormonsdeveloped skills for moving en masse. Theyestablished several semi-permanent camps,including Garden Grove and Mount Pisgah,

    FOLLOW THE TRAILTo follow The Oregon National Historic Trailwest through Wyoming, from Nebraska toIdaho:

    1. Take U.S. Route 26 west to Interstate 25.

    2. Turn north onto Interstate 25.

    3. Take Interstate 25 west toState Route 220.

    4. Turn west onto State Route 220.

    5. Take State Route 220 to U.S. Route 287.

    6. Turn west onto U.S. Route 287.

    7. Take U.S. Route 287 west toState Route 28.

    8. Turn West onto State Route 28.

    9 Take State Route 28 west toState Route 372.

    10. Turn southeast onto State Route 372.

    11. Take State Route 372 east toInterstate 80.

    12. Turn west onto Interstate 80.

    13. Take Interstate 80 west toState Route 412.

    14. Turn north onto State Route 412.

    15. Take State Route 412 to U.S. Route 189.

    16. Turn north onto U.S. Route 189.

    17. Take U.S. Route 189 north toU.S. Route 30.

    18. Turn west onto U.S. Route 30.

    Total original route miles in Wyoming: 491

    Source: National Park Service

  • where they planted crops and built facilities toassist those who followed. It was during this legof the journey that Brigham Young first organizedthem into companies of 1OOs, 50s, and 1Os. Thelessons learned crossing Iowa were used by futurecompanies of Mormons.

    The Trek of 1847The longest leg of the journey began at

    Winter Quarters on April 5, 1847, and ended onJuly 24, 1847, when Brigham Young entered the

    Valley of the Great Salt Lake. The trip wentsmoother than the previous year’s journeybecause the Mormons were better organized, hadbetter provisions, and began the trek when trailconditions were optimal. The lead pioneer partyleft with 148 people (143 men, 3 women, and 2young boys), 72 wagons, 93 horses, 66 oxen, 52mules, 19 cows, 17 dogs, and some chickens.This hand-picked group was organized into twolarge divisions and further split into companies of50 and 10. This organizational structure was

    based on Brigham Young’s plan for migratingwest. The plan also included details on campbehavior and devotional practices to be followedduring the journey.

    The trail across the Great Plains traversedhundreds of miles along the north side of thePlatte and North Platte rivers. At Fort Laramie theMormons crossed to the south side of the river,where they joined the Oregon Trail. About 100miles later, they left the North Platte River atpresent day Casper, Wyoming. They then fol-lowed the Sweetwater River for almost 100 milesand crossed the Continental Divide at South Pass.At Fort Bridger, they left the Oregon Trail andstruck out on their own following a route firstrecommended by California promoter LansfordHastings and pioneered in 1846 by four compa-nies of emigrants bound for California. Thesefour companies blazed two different routes intothe Salt Lake Valley. The Mormons followed thefaint, year-old track of the ill-fated Donner-Reedparty through the Wasatch Mountains.

    The final 116 miles, from Fort Bridger to theValley of the Great Salt Lake, were the most diffi-cult. The people were weary, their wagons worn,and livestock weakened by almost 1,000 miles ofwalking. Travel through the narrow, willow-choked canyons and over tree-covered slopesand rocky ridges of the Wasatch Range was soslow that it took the pioneer party 14 days tocomplete this part of their journey. On July 22,1847, when Thomas Bullock caught his first fullview of the valley he shouted “hurra, hurra,hurra, there’s my home at last.”

    The pioneer party began planting late crops assoon as they reached the valley. During the nextfew weeks, they laid out streets, built temporaryshelters, and prepared for winter. Mormon emi-grants continued to arrive during the remainingweeks of summer and fall, and approximately1,650 people spent their first winter in the valley.Shortly after their arrival, Brigham Young and






    Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

    Most trails west passed through the South Pass shown above.

    Mormon Pioneer Trail in WyomingNational Park Service Map

  • many members of the pioneer party made thereturn trip to Winter Quarters to be with theirfamilies and to help organize the next spring’smigration to the valley.

    The next 20 years would see about 70,000Mormons traveling by wagons and handcarts tothe Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Overland wagontravel declined after the completion of thetranscontinental railroad in 1869, when emigrantscould travel across the plains by rail.

    The Handcarts: 1856 to 1860A unique feature of the Mormon migration

    was their use of handcarts. Handcarts, two-wheeled carts that were pulled by emigrants,instead of draft animals, were sometimes used asan alternate means of transportation from 1856 to1860. They were seen as a faster, easier, andcheaper way to bring European converts to SaltLake City. Almost 3,000 Mormons, with 653 cartsand 50 supply wagons, traveling in 10 differentcompanies, made the trip over the trail to SaltLake City. While not the first to use handcarts,they were the only group to use them extensively.

    The handcarts were modeled after carts usedby street sweepers and were made almost entirelyof wood. They were generally 6 to 7 feet long,wide enough to span a narrow wagon track, andcould be alternately pushed or pulled. The smallboxes affixed to the carts were 3 to 4 feet longand 8 inches high. They could carry about 500pounds, most of this weight consisting of trailprovisions and a few personal possessions.

    All but two of the handcart companies com-pleted the journey with few problems. The fourthand fifth companies, known as the Martin andWillie companies, left Winter Quarters in August1856. This was very late to begin the trip acrossthe plains. They encountered severe winterweather west of present-day Casper, Wyoming,and hundreds died from exposure and faminebefore rescue parties could reach them. Whilethese incidents were a rarity, they illustrate thatthe departure date from the trailhead was crucialto a successful journey.

    The Trail TodayCongress established the Mormon Pioneer

    National Historic Trail as part of the NationalTrails System on November 10, 1978. This his-toric trail commemorates the 1846-47 journey ofthe Mormon people from Nauvoo, Illinois, to theValley of the Great Salt Lake. The designated cor-ridor is almost 1,300 miles long and is managedas a cooperative effort among private landowners,

    trail associations, state and local agencies, theNational Park Service, the Bureau of LandManagement, and the U.S. Forest Service. Landownership along the trail is comprised of 822miles (64 percent) on private land, 264 miles (20percent) under federal management, and 214miles (16 percent) in state and local ownership.Much of the trail is no longer visible, thoughsome trail segments and sites can be visited. Longstretches of the trail can still be seen in Wyoming.Reprinted from National Park Service brochure

    THE OREGON TRAIL“When you start over these wide plains, let no oneleave dependent on his best friend for any thing; for ifyou do, you will certainly have a blow-out before youget far.” —John Shively, 1846

    Onto Oregon! It all began with a crude net-work of rutted traces across the land from theMissouri River to the Willamette River that wasused by nearly 400,000 people. Today the 2,170-mile Oregon Trail still evokes an instant image, aready recollection of the settlement of this conti-nent, of the differences between American Indiansand white settlers, and of new horizons. In 1840only three states existed west of the MississippiRiver. Maine’s boundary with Canada was unde-fined. The western boundaries of the Nation layroughly along the Continental Divide. Within 10years the United States and Great Britain haddrawn a boundary that stretched from theAtlantic to the Pacific. The western boundarymoved from the Rocky Mountains to the PacificOcean. In another 40 years successive waves ofemigrants completely eliminated any sense offrontier, changed the way of life of the AmericanIndians, and ravaged many wild animal species,especially the herds of buffalo. Plows and barbedwire subdued the prairies. Transcontinental rail-roads knitted the great distances together.

    The first Europeans to see the trans-Mississippi West were the mountain men, trap-pers, and the maritime explorers along the westcoast. In Canada, the Hudson’s Bay Company furfrontier was approaching the Columbia Riverbasin. In 1812 John Jacob Astor establishedAstoria at the mouth of the Columbia in a coun-termove and sent Robert Stuart overland to carrydispatches east. Stuart found South Pass by fol-lowing a Crow Indian trail. Only 7,000 feet abovesea level, with easy gradients, South Pass has anattractive geographic proximity to the upperreaches of the Platte River. Both were determiningfactors in the routing of the Oregon Trail. Theearly frontiersmen found the passes, crossed thegreat rivers, and defined the vast reaches of thewestern interior. From the beginning theseexplorers contributed to a growing campaign tomake the Oregon Country a part of either theUnited States or Great Britain, according to theirown sometimes confused loyalties.

    Economic depressions in 1837 and 1841 frus-trated farmers and businessmen alike. The col-lapse of the international fur trade in 1839intensified the hard times, and concerns of Britishdomination of the Northwest grew. At the sametime, eastern churches saw the American Indiansof the Oregon Country as ready candidates forEuropean ideas of civilization. Churches formedardent missionary societies to create an activeappetite for Christianity. In 1836 MarcusWhitman and his new wife, Narcissa, along withHenry and Eliza Spalding, headed for Oregon asmissionaries. The letters they sent home publi-cized the opportunities and advantages ofOregon. Many people for many reasons had





    Wyoming, with its diverse landscape andunspoiled vistas, has been the setting for anumber of films. Close Encounters of the ThirdKind (1977) used the Devil’s Tower area.Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)was filmed near Hole-In-The-Wall. An area justnorth of Casper was the background forStarship Troopers, filmed in 1997, and for TheHellfighters (1968).

    The Jackson Hole area was used in RockyIV (1985), The Cowboy and the Lady (1922),The Big Trail (1930), Shane (1951), Jubal,The Big Sky, Spencer’s Mountain (1963).

    Clint Eastwood fans saw Wyomingscenery in Any Which Way You Can (1980).

    Other movies made in Wyoming include:Bad Bascomb (1946), Bright Angel (1991),The Cowpuncher (1915), End of the Trail(1932), The Far Horizons (1955), GhostsCan’t Do it (1990), Hike (1998), The IndianWars (1914), The Last Resort (1997), TheVanishing (1993), The Wrong Guys (1988).

  • become interested in Oregon, but it was not until1841 that the first group with serious intent toemigrate left the banks of the Missouri River andheaded west. In 1843, nearly 1,000 completedthe trip-an omen of the multitudes to follow.

    The Oregon Trail was never a clearly definedtrack. In places the wagons passed in columns thatmight be hundreds of yards apart; those tracesshifted with the effects of weather and use. In thecourse of time nature obliterated many of thefainter traces. Road builders followed the deeper,more permanent traces because they marked thebest route. The Oregon Trail was quickly being for-gotten. In 1906, 76-yearold Ezra Meeker, Oregonsettler in 1852 and a tireless champion of the trail,

    set out in a covered wagon to retrace the routefrom west to east. Among his goals: to create ageneral interest in marking the route, to raise pub-lic awareness of the trail’s history and heritage, andto point out the loss and damage resulting fromcareless disregard. Meeker met with PresidentsTheodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, testifiedbefore Congress, and made several other publicitytrips over the trail before his death in 1928. Todaythe National Park Service, in concert with theBureau of Land Management, the Forest Service,and the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska,Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington striveto protect this legacy.

    Across the Plains

    GuidebooksIn book or pamphlet form, guidebooks were

    soon available for emigrants. Some providedgood, solid, reliable information. Others con-tributed to the Oregon Fever that swept the coun-try in the 1840s describing the land in almostBiblical terms.

    Each part of the journey had its difficulties.For the first third of the way, the emigrants gotused to the routine and work of travel. Theylearned to hitch and unhitch their livestock, tokeep the wagons in good running order, and tomake sure that their animals got the water andfood they needed to survive. They learned to getalong with their fellow emigrants, to agree onrules they would all follow on the journey, and toset up and break camp every night and morning.They learned to spread out in several columns sothat they raised less dust and fewer of them had

    to breathe the choking air. They rotated positionsin the line in a spirit of fairness. They learned totravel six out of seven days as experienced voicestold them that some of the most difficult sectionsto travel would come at the end, when theywould have to cross mountains before the wintersnows. Fortunately the landscape was relativelygentle as they traveled through the Platte RiverValley heading for the High Plains. Starting in thespring, too, provided them with abundant grassfor the livestock. Water was also plentiful, and ifthey were early enough in the year campsites andwaterholes would not be overgrazed or fouled.Cholera, whose cause was then unknown (but wenow know can be traced to contaminated water),killed more travelers than anything else. Howmany emigrants died along the trail can never beknown. The number of deaths varied from year toyear. Most likely the death rate was little differentfrom that for those who resisted the lure of thetrail with all its potential disasters.

    Loading the WagonWagons usually measured 4 feet wide by 12

    feet long. Into these 48 square feet were put sup-plies for traveling the trail and the wherewithalfor beginning a new life. The emphasis was ontools and food, but a few family treasures andheirlooms were also carried. A typical load isshown at left. Using the wagon as shelter wasalmost an afterthought.

    Over the Continental DivideExcitement abounded when the emigrants

    passed the landmarks of Chimney Rock andScotts Bluff, about onethird of the way on the






    Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

    Many travelers left their mark along the way atseveral locations. This man left his at RegisterCliffs near Guernsey

    Oregon Trail in WyomingNational Park Service Map

  • trail. It meant they were making progress. Bythis time, too, they would have an idea if theirmoney would hold out. Tolls at ferries andbridges had to be paid. Supplies and food werebought at trading posts along the way or fromother emigrants. A week’s journey beyond ScottsBluff brought them to Fort Laramie, the greatsupply depot and resting place. Here they couldreplenish dwindling stocks of food and otherstaples—for a price. Wheels could be repairedand wagon boxes tightened before they set outon the steepening ascent to the ContinentalDivide. Water and grass for livestock becamemore scarce. The drier air caused woodenwheels to shrink and the iron tires that held thewheels together loosened or rolled off. Buffaloherds on which the emigrants had depended for

    fresh meat to supplement their staples becameincreasingly hard to find the farther west theywent. Cooking fuel, whether wood or buffalochips, was also harder to find. To lighten theirwagons, the emigrants left treasured pieces offurniture and other personal belongings by thewayside. Surviving the trip had become of para-mount importance; food and tools were vital,heirlooms were not. From Fort Laramie to FortBridger, on the western edge of present-dayWyoming, the Mormon Trail flowed with theOregon and California trails. At Fort Bridger theemigrants parted ways as those bound forOregon turned northwest toward the SnakeRiver Valley. Alternate routes included Sublette’sCutoff and the Lander Cutoff. Beginning justwest of South Pass, Sublette’s Cutoff crossed abarren, arid stretch of country where for 50miles there was no water and little grass. Thosewho chose the grueling route and survived hadsaved 85 miles and a week of travel.

    Emigrant and IndianEarly emigrants generally found the Indians

    they encountered to be cordial and helpful. Somenever even saw any Indians As emigrant numbersmultiplied, however, the friendly relationshipsbecame strained. Hostilities and casualties

    occurred often enough after 186010 keep bothsides nervous when emigrant wagons crossedIndian lands. Wise members of both groups madean effort to avoid trouble, and they usually suc-ceeded. Rather than fight, Indians often assistedemigrant parties on the way west. Countlessinstances of assistance in the form of extra wagonteams, food, and medical help were provided byIndians, who served as trail guides and pilots atdangerous crossings. Indian life was affected radi-cally by the emigrants, who brought disease andkilled the wild game. And despite popular fiction,emigrants circled their wagons to corral their live-stock rather than to ward oft Indian attack.

    Trail’s EndFootsore, weary, and exhausted, traveler and

    beast alike faced the final third and the most diffi-cult part of the trail. Yet speed was of the essence,for winter snows could close mountain passes ortrap unprepared and tired groups of emigrants asthey crossed both the Blue Mountains in easternOregon and the Cascades to the west. The photo-graph below shows a family entering Baker City,just east of the Blue Mountains, about 1864. Inthe early years, before the Barlow Road across theCascades was opened as a toll road in 1846, emi-grants had no choice but to go down theColumbia from The Dallas on a raft or abandontheir wagons and build boats. The Columbia wasfull of rapids and dangerous currents; many emi-grants lost their lives, almost within sight of theirgoal. Once the settlers arrived in the WillametteValley they spread out to establish farms andsmall towns. Initially, few emigrants settled northof the Columbia, but once the United States andGreat Britain agreed on an international boundaryand the Hudson’s Bay Company moved its post atFort Vancouver to Vancouver Island, Americanssettled in present-day Washington as well. The1850 census showed that 12,093 people lived inOregon. Ten years later, when Oregon had been astate for one year, 52,495 were counted. Smalltowns were on the verge of becoming cities.Frame houses replaced log cabins. Orchards grewto maturity. The land was acquiring the look ofcivilization that the emigrants had left behind.


    Manifest Destiny-Paradise“Ho for California!” Free land. Gold. Adventure.Between 1841 and 1869, more than a quartermillion people answered this call and crossed theplains and mountains to the “El Dorado” of theWest. By 1849 the lure of instant wealth and talesof gold beckoned at the end of the 2,000-mileCalifornia Trail. The story of the men, women,and children who traveled overland to the Westcoast has become an American epic.

    Since the late 1700s, the West had held outthe promise of boundless opportunity. After Lewisand Clark found a way to the Pacific in 1805, furtraders followed Indian trails up western rivervalleys and across mountain passes, filling in theblank spaces on early maps that representedunknown country. By the late 1830s, mountainmen had explored most of the routes that becameoverland trails. In 1837 an economic panic sweptthe United States and gave people already itchingto move an additional reason to go west.

    Throughout the 1840s promoters and trailguides worked hard to create an idyllic picture ofthe prospects for greater fortune and better healthopen to Americans who made the journey toCalifornia. One young emigrant reported that a




    Hundreds of thousands of travelers literally carved the trail into stone near Guernsey.

    Wyoming TidbitsThe Oregon Trail extended from Independence,Missouri to the Columbia River. More than300,000 people traveled the route between1840 and 1869.

  • pamphlet describing a lush California with itsideal climate and flowers that bloomed all winter“made me just crazy to move out there, for Ithought such a country must be a paradise.”

    Why Go West?Watching “one continual stream” of “honest

    looking open hearted people” going west in 1846,mountain man James Clyman asked why “somany of all kinds and classes of People shouldsell out comfortable homes in Missouri andElsewhere pack up and start across such animmense Barren waste to settle in some new Placeof which they have at most so uncertain informa-tion.” Clyman’s answer?—”this is the character ofmy countrymen.”

    What was the character of Americans in the1840s? Many embraced Manifest Destiny, aphrase penned by journalist John O’Sullivan inJuly 1845 to explain the U.S. government’s thirstfor expansion. It was a new term but not a newidea. Since the beginning of the republic, leadershad aggressively claimed land for the UnitedStates. Manifest Destiny crystallized the idea thatit was God’s will and the rightful destiny ofAmericans to take over the continent. It became arallying cry for overlanders to head west.

    Personal motives of the emigrants varied.Some planned to build permanent homes orfarms, but many hoped to make their fortunesand return east. One 1846 traveler noted that hiscompanions all “agreed in the one general object,that of bettering their condition,” but individualhopes and dreams “were as various as can well beimagined.” Dreams spurred a diversity of emi-grants too: Americans, African Americans,Indians, Canadians, Europeans—people of allages and backgrounds crossed the plains.

    BeginningsThe Bidwell-Bartleson party, the first emi-

    grants to go to California, left Missouri in May1841 with 69 people. At Soda Springs, Idaho,some continued on to Oregon. The others, know-ing only “that California lay to the west,” strug-gled across the north end of the Great Salt LakeDesert. They abandoned their wagons beforereaching the Humboldt River, packed their live-stock with necessities, and, in November, 39 trav-elers reached California.

    In 1844 the Stephens- Townsend-Murphyparty, traveling the Truckee route, reached theSierra Nevada in November. Stalled by snow, theyleft some wagons at Donner Lake and packedonward. In the spring they retrieved their wag-ons, becoming the first emigrants to take wagonsall the way to Sutter’s Fort, California. In 18