4 Historical Sites Just Off I-25, Wyoming
If you didn't know from all of the history books, and western movies, Wyoming offers the traveler a wide variety of history throughout the state. So, if you find yourself driving on I-25 through Wyoming, one little side trip you may want to consider, is just off exit 92 on Highway 26. This 28 mile trek is not only quick, but full of history.
Once you've exited I-25, follow Highway 26 for 16 miles, directly into Guernsey, Wyoming. This little town is host to the ruts and Oregon Trail, both directly accessible to the public. Once in the heart of Guernsey, make a right turn onto S. Wyoming Ave. and follow the signs leading to both of these historical attractions. Register Cliff
Without this turning into a complete history lesson, I'll give you the highlights (and photo) of each.
Oregon Trail Ruts
As settlers moved from the east to the baron west, they followed a handful of trails, one of which was the Oregon Trail. This particular route was heavily traveled from 1841 to 1869 and the best preserved portion of this trail can be found just half a mile south of the small town of Guernsey, Wyoming.
This stretch of the Oregon Trail was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
The wagon wheels, animals and heavy foot traffic wore a deep path in the sandstone along this stretch of land, some places as deep as six feet.
This stop on the trip has a well maintained walking path, picnic tables and restrooms.
While traveling along the Oregon Trail, many emigrants stopped at a large sandstone rock formation, now known as Register Cliff, to carve their names and names of families. Register cliff is one of the prominent "recording areas" along the Oregon Trail, with names dating as far back as 1843.
Today, as a visitor to Register Cliff, you are welcome to carve your name and date into the side of the cliff, marking your travels, and sharing a little history along the Oregon Trail. The oldest verified names that are still visible on the cliff are now blocked off by chain link fencing, to prevent vandalism.
This stop has a dirt/rock walking trail along the base of the cliff, but is more difficult to maneuver. The parking area is large, and offers a restroom and picnic tables.
Fort Laramie Bridge
Once you have seen the Oregon Trail ruts and Register Cliff, you'll want to continue east on Highway 26 toward Fort Laramie.
The modern town of Fort Laramie was founded after the Historic Fort Laramie ceased operations in 1890. Upon entering this little-bitty town, you'll need to make a very sharp right turn off of Highway 26 onto CO RD 50 (if you drive past the little gas station on the right side of the road, you've gone too far... if you see water tanks off to your left, you've gone way too far).
Follow CO RD 50 for approximately 3 miles, as you approach a bridge, you'll see the Fort Laramie Bridge running parallel to the modern bridge. Parking is available at the old bridges' entrance at either end.
This bridge, built in 1875 of iron with wooden planks, was used by emigrants and fur traders traveling to Fort John (now Fort Laramie).
Tourists are encouraged to explore the bridge, but please, no fishing or jumping off of the bridge.
Just down CO RD 50 from Fort Laramie Bridge is the historic Fort Laramie.
This, by far is my favorite stop on this little day trip. If you've done traveling and visited other historic forts around the country, you know that they don't have the large walls surrounding them like in the movie. Fort Laramie is no exception.
Fort Laramie, was founded in the 1830's and was originally located closer to the banks of the Laramie River. It was a privately owned fur trading post and called Fort William at that time.
Later, in 1841 it was bought by the American Fur Company and renamed Fort John.
In 1949, it was purchased by the United States military and re-named Fort Laramie, in honor of a local French fur trapper, Jacques La Ramie. Other documents suggest that the name was changed out of convenience, since it was easier to say Fort Laramie than Fort John along the Laramie River. It was also moved farther inland, but remains of the original Fort John can still be seen near the riverbanks.
While Fort Laramie didn't see a lot of military fighting, it was an important part of the Oregon Trail by providing emigrants protection and supplies during their travels. It later became a station for the Pony Express.
Many of the original buildings are still standing and ruins of many others are in various state of decay, but being gently preserved.
During the summer months, you can choose from a variety of activities; moonlit tours, 4th of July games for all ages, and (my favorite part) volunteers from all over the world come together to dress in historically accurate clothing and teach visitors of the the amazing, and sometimes silly, personal stories of those who once filled the elegant homes and military barracks.
This stop offers visitors a large paved parking area, picnic area, restrooms in several locations, and a gift shop. You can tour the fort with a group, with the self-guided audio tour, or on your own. Information markers are available for each building and/or ruin. Within the gift shop is a small viewing area, where you can watch a short film based on the history of Fort Laramie. And don't forget to stop by the saloon for an ice cold sarsaparilla.