Monday, June 8, 2015

Fort Laramie, Wyoming

Fort Laramie began life originally as Fort William, then a few years later as Fort John. Fort William was founded in 1834 as a fur trading post, but it was not until 1849 that it took on the name of Fort Laramie, when the US Army purchased it. The US Army's main role at Fort Laramie, was to protect the many wagon trains travelling through on the emigrant trails (Oregon Trail, Mormon Pioneer Trail, California Trail and the Pony Express). As the fort grew it became the principal military outpost on the Northern Plains, and also a main transportation and communication hub for the region.

The fort lies alongside the Laramie River, close to the confluence of the North Platte River and the Laramie River. As you approach the fort from the northeast access road, the first structure of importance is the Old Iron Bridge spanning the North Platte River. This bridge was built in 1875 by the US Army, and provided an easier crossing, and vital link between Cheyenne, the Fort, and other surrounding outposts.

The forts demise came after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was built between 1863 and 1869. The railroad connected the west coast with the existing rail lines in Iowa, and made emigrating west a lot cheaper and faster, which in turn saw the decline of the Oregon trail. Fort Laramie was eventually de-commissioned by the US Army in 1869.

The fort today looks much like it did back in the late 1800's, although there is a mix of complete structures, building shells, and foundations. Eleven structures have been completely restored though, and give you a great sense of how it was to live and work on the fort.

Memorial looking towards the Cavalry Barracks (1874)

Officers' Quarters (1881) adobe style ruins

"Old Bedlam" (1849) built to house bachelor officers

Front porch of "Old Bedlam"

The front porch of the Cavalry Barracks

The Cavalry living quarters on the 2nd floor of the Barracks

Catling gun first used during the American Civil War in the 1860's

The fort is surrounded by grasslands, rivers and bluffs

Officers' Quarters Ruins
Parade ground

Fort Laramie was an important stop along the Emigrant trail routes. The Oregon Trail was laid down between 1811 and 1840 by fur trappers and traders, and provided a passage on foot or horse between Missouri and Oregon, the trail was 2,200 miles in length. The trail saw the most amount of emigrant traffic between 1846 and 1869, and approximately 400,000 emigrants, traders, farmers, ranchers used the trail from 1830 onwards.

Some of the best preserved portions of the Oregon Trail are close to Fort Laramie in Guernsey, including wagon ruts and signatures carved in the rocks.

US Post signature (1857)

Register Cliffs in Guernsey

Oregon Trail wagon ruts

The rock is soft, so over time the wagons carved out the ruts

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