Fort Bridger

Overview

Introduction

Originally a trading post on the Oregon Trail (started by mountain man and tall-tale artist Jim Bridger in 1842), this town on Interstate 80 near the state's western edge was an important stop for settlers on the way west, including Mormon pioneers. Today, the original fort has been re-created, and there's a schoolhouse, a smithy, a Pony Express Barn, and a museum with Native American and pioneer artifacts. The Fort Bridger Mountain Man Rendezvous is held every September, a celebration of the fur trappers who roamed the American West. (The celebration for furriers is interesting, considering that Bridger built the post with immigrants' needs in mind rather than those of the fur trade, a unique marketing idea for the time.) The fort is open daily May-September and by appointment in the off-season.

About 45 mi/70 km to the northwest is Fossil Butte National Monument. The tall rock outcropping contains the fossilized remains of aquatic vertebrates and illustrates the evolution of freshwater fish and climate changes better than any other site in the country. The visitors center has exhibits on the fossils, and you can follow a hiking trail to a fossil quarry. Just a few miles/kilometers to the east of the national monument, the town of Kemmerer has preserved the home of James Cash Penney, founder of the JCPenney stores. His first store (called the Golden Rule Store) was opened in Kemmerer in 1902. Although the original building no longer exists, the town's current JCPenney store has been outfitted to look like a store from the early 1900s. Fort Bridger is 290 mi/465 km west of Cheyenne.

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