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Wandering WY: Fort Caspar

In all my wandering this summer, I saved some of the really amazing places closer to home for last. Today when I visited Fort Caspar for this first time I was amused to find out that my home town is known as the Hub of Wyoming because that is exactly how I've viewed it all summer as I traveled out along one spoke of the hub and then another. Since the mid-1800s the Casper area has been at the heart of Wyoming.

At first, the Wyoming plains were home to the Shoshone, Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Nations. Until long lines of wagons as far as the eye could see came from the east bearing settlers along the North Platte to this crossing where they would turn and follow the Sweetwater River further west.

The Oregon/California/Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express Trails all passed through the North Platte River Valley. Early on in the trails' history conflict between Native Americans and settlers were few. By the mid-1850s all that changed and with the increase in hostilities came the establishment of U.S. Army posts to guard the blazing pathway of progress.

Through 1852 the Mormons operated a ferry service for fellow travelers across the North Platte at this site. In 1855, the Army established a fort at John Richard's (Reshaw's) bridge. Where they were stationed again during the "Mormon War" from 1858-59. It was during that time that the first permanent occupation was built at the site by Louis Guinard. He erected a bridge and trading post that soon became an overnight stage-stop, Pony Express relay station, and a telegraph office. Guinard charged travelers $1-$6 to cross depending upon river conditions and may also have been willing to accept payment in goods or livestock.

In the early 1860s, the 6th Ohio Volunteer Calvary regiment was ordered to man telegraph stations between Fort Laramie and South Pass City. This included a station at Guinard's bridge. The North Platte River Station operated until 1867.

The Sand Creek Massacre increased raids along the trails in 1865 and the station was quickly reinforced by the 11th Ohio Volunteer Calvary and 3rd U.S. Infantry. Then again by the 11th Kansas Volunteer Calvary and 6th U.S. Volunteer Infantry.

Lt. Caspar Collins leading a detachment to escort an Army supply train on July 26, 1865, was killed in a joint ambush of the Platte River Bridge by the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe. The station's name was changed to Fort Caspar in honor of the fallen Lieutenant. The supply chain never reached the fort. It was attacked by the same raiding party as the Fort and only three men survived the battle that came to be known as the Battle of Red Buttes.

When Fort Caspar closed in 1867 the troops were relocated to Fort Fetterman. For a long time, the abandoned Fort fell to ruins. In 1936, Casper citizens reconstructed the Fort based upon sketches Lt. Caspar Collins made in 1863. In the 80s the museum opened and now visitors from around the world can come to appreciate the tumultuous history of North Platte River Valley from its prehistoric occupation through more recent times.

The staff at the museum is very helpful and everything was very clean. If you are looking for a place to picnic, there are tables and a park on the other side of the parking lot from the museum. RV and Trailer travelers can also take advantage of the Fort Caspar campground right along the river's edge. This hidden Wyoming gem is well worth the visit!

Thank you, fellow adventurers! You can follow the lilmissbearpaw blog page on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lilmissbearpaw for sneak peeks into upcoming posts and my adventures. This will also be a great place to share your own adventures!

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