Fort Laramie, near the confluence of the North Platte and Laramie Rivers in southeastern Wyoming, was built in 1834 as a fur trading post. It was the first permanent settlement in the state. But the legacy it left to the West is as one of the greatest outposts in American history.
From the 1840s to the 1870s, almost every major activity in the West was somehow connected to Fort Laramie.
• It was an important stop on the Oregon Trail, marking the first contact with civilization in more than 300 miles.
• It was an important spot for peace councils, starting in 1851 when almost 10,000 Plains Indians gathered here for the signing of a treaty with a white delegation from the East.
• It was a station for the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage line, the Pony Express and the transcontinental telegraph. This section of the stage route was considered one of the most dangerous in the country because of the number of Indian raids and stage holdups that occurred along the trail.
• And it became the starting point for many bloody campaigns intended to subdue the Northern Plains Indians.
Abandoned in 1890, today Fort Laramie is a National Historic Site. When it was first deserted, some buildings were dismantled for lumber by local ranchers while homesteaders moved into others. Visitors today can see eleven structures that are restored to their original appearance. Those include the sutler’s store, the surgeon’s quarters, an enlisted men’s bar and bakery, and the 1874 cavalry barracks. All of them have been refurnished to reflect the flavor of daily life in its heyday. Other buildings on the site have been maintained as ruins, including several living quarters as well as the post hospital.
Several other interesting historic sites are located nearby, and well worth a visit. One is the iron Army bridge built in 1875 that spans the North Platte River. It’s about two miles north of the fort.
Also make a stop at Register Cliff, where fur traders, pioneers, soldiers and ranchers carved their names and dates during the nineteenth century. It’s distance of eleven miles was about a day’s travel from Fort Laramie, so the broad river bottom nearby became an important campsite. Graves beside the cliff give visitors a glimpse of the number of emigrants who died along the trail.