Friday, October 20, 2006

Following the Oregon Trail through Wyoming

The early settlers of the American west mostly traveled through Wyoming without staying.  They followed known rivers to a point that they could easily cross the continental divide.  On the other side of the continental divide they would follow the rivers that flowed west to the Pacific Ocean, and their final destination, Utah, California or Oregon.  The three main trails that cut across Wyoming are the Oregon, the Morman and the California trail.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, they followed the North Platte river.  You can still find wagon wheel ruts and places where the early pioneers carved their names in the sandstone cliffs.  On the south side of the North Platte, across from Fort Laramie, is Register Cliff.  North of Rawlins and northeast of Whisky Gap is Independance Rock, also known as the "Register of the Desert".

The towns that sprung up along the old trails are Torrington, Fort Laramie, Guernsey, Douglas, and Casper.  Just north of Douglas (home of the famous jackalope) is the site of the most notorious gambling resort and saloon in the territory. In 1882 it was known as the "Hog Ranch".  Northwest of Casper is the "Hole-in-the-Wall", Butch Cassidy's hide out. 

As the trails moved west they crossed the continental divide at South Pass and then moved southwest to Fort Bridger.  After Fort Bridger, they split, some going south into Utah and California, the others going west toward Oregon.  Fort Bridger was the home of the early fur trapper, Jim Bridger.

One of my favorite places in Central Wyoming is Lander.  Is is at the southern edge of the Wind River Indian Reservation, and the grave of Sacajawea, the famous Shoshone girl guide and heroine of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805-06.  West of Lander is Pinedale.  This is the location of one of my not-so-secret fishing places.  There is a series of lakes in the Wind River Mountains east of Pinedale.  My favorite is Burnt Lake.  Unitl the late 1970's you could only access it with a four-wheel drive vehicle.  It  holds many memories of fishing trips with my father in the 1950's.  If you plan a trip to Jackson Hole (The Tetons) and Yellowstone via this route, take along your favorite tape or CD to listen to.  That is unless you enjoy listening to country and western music on an AM radio.  The only station you can receive is KMER-AM, Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Before I move on to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone, I would like to share one of the strangest sensations I have ever experienced while driving.  On US20 between Shoshoni and Thermopolis, is the Wind River canyon.  The river flows north through the canyon (contrary to most in the area that flow south).  The highway slopes down ever so gently that it gives the illusion that the water in the river is actually flowing up hill!  The first time I drove it alone (1970), it freaked me out so much that I almost drove off the road and into the river.  To top it off, I was listening to the sound track to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and could imagine ol' Butch and Sundance riding horseback along the river.......  And I wasn't even smoking anything!


shayshaydc said...

Second paragraph right before "Hole in the Wall" you need to add an e

Also, after the sentence "My favorite is Burnt Lake" right below the picture the word hold needs to be holds...

Luv ya you  sexy thang you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hehe

helmswondermom said...

I'm so glad you invited me to read this journal.  Really enjoyed this entry!  I would love to do some traveling in the West, and following the old Oregon Trail would be a good way to do it (with lots of stops for Thomas to do some local fishing).  A lot of the names of places you mentioned I seem to remember from Zane Grey books, like Rawlins and Jackson Hole.  I remember a song by Johnny Horton about Jim Bridger.