There are dozens of historic sites waiting to be explored. Some are fully developed with interpretive centers, others point out a site where a significant event occurred, and some, like Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming, feature living history.
Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming
One of the most important outposts on the migration route followed by the pioneers, Fort Laramie began as a trading post during the height of the Fur Trade Era. The United States later purchased the fort to protect and supply emigrants on the Oregon Trail. The fort’s location later made it a major link in the Pony Express and the transcontinental telegraph systems. Notable events include the battle that started the Plains Indian Wars which was witness by a teenage Lakota boy who later became known as Crazy Horse.
Today, 22 structures survive, including Old Bedlam, the oldest structure in Wyoming. Summer visitors to the Fort are treated to living history demonstrations.
South Pass City, Wyoming
South Pass City, a gold rush town built in 1867 and located south of Lander, is most famous for its role in the women’s suffrage movement. Seventeen of the site’s 20 original structures have been restored. Many of the site’s 30,000 artifacts are exhibited in their original buildings, making South Pass City one of the most accurately restored and authentically exhibited historic sites in the West.
One of Wyoming’s best historically themed events occurs each summer in mid-July when South Pass City hosts Gold Rush Days. This celebration of the Sweetwater Mining District’s heritage includes a baseball tournament with 1900 rules, uniforms and equipment; hard-rock hand drilling exhibitions and competitions; gold panning; living history presentations; music, food and much more. For more information visit www.southpasscity.com
Sheridan’s Historic Main Street District, on the National Register of Historic Places, serves as a cultural center for the region. It is home to hundreds of local artists, including painters, musicians, authors and sculptors.
The community’s history is captured in its many museums: King’s Museum presents a large collection of cowboy and Native American memorabilia; Sheridan County Museum exhibits the colorful culture, commerce and characters of the area; Trail End Historic Site, a cattle baron’s mansion, features ranching heritage; and Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum tells the story of a gentleman rancher. For more information visit www.sheridanwyoming.org
Other Wyoming Historic Sights
Fort Bridger State Historic Site, located near Evanston, is second only to Fort Laramie as the most important outfitting site for emigrants along the western trails. The Mormon, California and Oregon Trails all passed through the area, which is also home to the Historic Union Pacific Round House & Railroad.
Fort Casper, on the banks of the North Platte River, is also known as the Platte Bridge Station. It is located in Casper, and includes a museum.
Independence Rock, where more than 5,000 travelers bound for Oregon Country left their names, is located west of Casper.
Heart Mountain Relocation Center, between Cody and Powell, offers a free, year-round, self guided walking tour of the site where nearly 11,000 Japanese- Americans were interned during World War II. It also features a restored military honor roll and memorial park. This site contains original buildings and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Phil Kearny is located at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains. The largest stockade post of its time, the fort was under daily attack by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors during its two-years as an active military fort.
Johnson County, Wyoming, has an abundance of historical sites, including Fort Phil Kearny, Fetterman, Wagon Box, Crazy Woman, and Dull Knife Battlefields. You can also visit TA Ranch, site of the legendary Johnson County Cattle War.
Fort Benton, Montana
In Montana, another spot that played a prominent role in the opening of the Northwest was Fort Benton. Located on the Missouri River, Fort Benton began as a trading post in 1860, later served the U.S. Cavalry, and then served as a center for steamboat navigation on the Missouri. Today, Fort Benton features many historic buildings, a museum and a riverfront park.
Other Montana Historical Sites
The Portage National Historical Landmark near Great Falls, which marks the point where the Lewis and Clark expedition portaged 18 miles around the Great Falls of the Missouri.
Battle of the Little Bighorn, near Hardin, where Sioux and Cheyenne warriors overran General Custer and his 7th Cavalry.
Big Hole National Battlefield, near Wisdom, site of the 1877 battle between the Nez Perce and the U.S. Cavalry.
Anaconda and Philipsburg, both of which contain National Historic Districts are rich in mining heritage.
Visitors continuing westward from Yellowstone will want to stop at Fort Hall in Pocatello, Idaho. Like Fort Laramie, Fort Hall began as a trading post owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company to serve the mountain men and fur traders.
Idaho Historical Sites
The Teton Flood Museum in Rexburg, sight were the Teton Dam collapsed in 1976.
The EBR-1 National Historic Landmark, where electricity generated by nuclear power first powered an American town.
City of Rocks National Reserve, near Oakley, where the Oregon and California trails split.
Utah Historical Sites
Box Elder, Cache, and Rich Counties, where visitors can enjoy Old West heritage at its best. Many beautiful turn-of-the-century homes, churches, and store structures dot the landscape, and opportunities to visit historic sites abound.
The Dry Fork Petroglyphs, located just outside Vernal, are well known for their quality and accessibility. These 800-year-old Fremont Indian panels cover more than 200 feet of a Navaho Sandstone cliff face.
John Jarvie Ranch Historical Site, in historic Browns Park, was once a famous hideout along the Outlaw Trail. The site features an 1880s-era original stone house, dugout and general store.
Josie Bassett’s Historical Cabin is located along the Tour of Tilted Rocks in Dinosaur National Monument. This restored homestead tells a great story of a hardy pioneer woman.
Nine Mile Canyon is considered by many to be the “longest natural art gallery in the world.” Featured in National Geographic, this scenic desert canyon has numerous rock art panels scattered along a self-guided auto tour. (Great Hunt panel pictured below)
Swett Ranch Historical Site is a 1900s ranch homestead in the heart of Flaming Gorge Country. Restored by the U.S. Forest Service, guided tours are offered throughout the summer season.