Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fort Laramie

After seeing the Oregon Trail Ruts Historic Site and Register Cliff at Guernsey it was a few miles on down the road to Fort Laramie, a National Historic Site. We were pleased to find out that our Golden Eagle passes worked here!

Fort Laramie was established in 1834 near the confluence of the North Platte and the Laramie Rivers. It was first called Fort William for William Sublette, one of the builders. It enjoyed a monopoly on the buffalo trade for many years. In the 1840s the buffalo skin trade was tapering off, and in 1841 the Fort became a stopover for the thousands of emigrants coming through on the Oregon Trail. It was renamed Fort John. In 1849 the U.S. Army bought the Fort to establish a military presence on the plains.The Army changed the name again, to Fort Laramie.This building, originally built in 1874 and then recently restored, was a barracks for the Cavalry during the Indian wars.

I was intrigued with this enormous willow tree, across the road from the Barracks. It had been propped up in several places and gave a wonderful shade on a very hot day. I could imagine children using it to play on, and I surprised a bunny who was enjoying the coolness.

With the end of the wars against the Plains Indians, the Fort lost its importance and was abandoned in 1890. It was sold at public auction. Many of the buildings survived because homesteaders purchased them and public agencies later worked to preserve them. The restored house above, named "Old Bedlam" is the oldest documented house in Wyoming. It served as bachelors' quarters and also housed the Fort commander from 1863-64. It sits in contrast to the ruins of two old officers' quarters. I read that the working Fort sat on treeless grounds. Today there are many trees.

These are the ruins of the hospital from 1873, the first concrete building at the Fort. It was a 12 bed facility with dispensary, kitchen, dining room, isolation rooms, and surgeon's office. Not much left here!

This bow string arch bridge, which replaced early ferries, provided a permanent transportation link between Cheyenne and the territory north of Fort Laramie. It has been restored, complete with its ice breakers. We enjoyed walking across it, picturing the horse and wagons and later the model T type cars. The setting is lovely with huge old cottonwoods along the river bank. The modern bridge is right next to it.

As we completed our tour we drove on down the highway to the next little prairie town, called Lingle. We always explore these towns, checking out the downtown, if there is one, and the back streets as well. At this dead end we were amused to find Lingle's Bumper Crop! Someone had fun with that!

We took a different route home to Cheyenne, making a loop. Mr. Keith saw these bluffs in the distance and had to see if we could get up closer. It was very pretty, and we did make it to the end of the road where there was a reservoir, but that gravel road was the worst washboard we've been on! So ended the last leg of our 200 mile journey into Wyoming history. It was a great adventure back in time along the old Oregon Trail!


Char said...

Aren't the Golden Age passes wonderful?!

Ann said...

Yes! We haven't used ours for awhile.