On Wyoming’s Frontier . . . Ft. Caspar

Fort Caspar, Wyoming

Although we were in a hurry to get up the road to the Little Big Horn Battlefield, the Frontier Travelers couldn’t resist stopping in Casper, Wyoming to visit Platte Bridge Station, later renamed Fort Caspar. (yes, the town is CaspEr, the fort CaspAr)

Wagon at Fort Caspar WyomingWe arrived at Fort Caspar in early May, and as you can see from the photos, snow was still on the mountains. Later this same trip we ran into a blizzard in North Dakota—but that’s another tale.

The grounds are beautifully kept and the buildings authentically reconstructed. However, I had no sense of the people whose lives weaved their way through this outpost–and there were plenty; in fact the Oregon, California, Mormon, Pony Express, Bridger, and Bozeman Trails all went through Fort Caspar.

Of course, the Frontier Travelers were happy they stopped because we got such a good sense of the loneliness of the post and the spartan lives spent by officers and enlisted men on the frontier. How miserable this locale must have felt to Collins and the others–ironic when its rugged beauty must have seemed like Paradise to the Sioux and Cheyenne who roamed these parts.

The first permanent occupation of this Wyoming site occurred in 1859, when a fellow named Louis Guinard built a trading post, which later became a stage stop and Pony Express mail stop.

The cavalry first arrived here in 1861, and later beefed up their ranks after an odious fellow named Chivington massacred an Indian village at Sand Creek.

Officers Quarters Fort Caspar WyomingIn 1865, just months following President Lincoln’s assassination, Sioux and Cheyenne under the famous chief Red Cloud attacked a small detachment that had been dispatched to escort a wagon train coming into Platte Bridge Station.

The commander of the detachment was a young lieutenant named Caspar Collins.

Collins and his men got back across the bridge while under Indian fire, but several of the men were killed, including Collins himself. The post was renamed for Collins shortly thereafter. (By the way, Fort Collins, Colorado was named for William Collins—Caspar’s father).

Visit Fort Caspar today and you’ll see a reconstructed fort on the original foundation site. Reconstruction was based on sketches made by Lt. Caspar Collins. A beautiful interpretive center and self-guided tour give visitors a detailed overview of Indian and military life during the 1860s.

While at Fort Caspar, also check out the replica of the Mormon Ferry – a boat first built by Britham Young’s men in 1847, to cross the flodding North Platte River. From 1847 through 1852, Mormons operated the ferry business for emigrants going west.

Read more about Fort Caspar

Fort Caspar (Platte bridge station)

Old Fort Caspar

Frontier crossroads: The history of Fort Caspar and the Upper Platte Crossing