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Proposal to Designate the Bozeman Trail as a National Historic Trail

Project Goal: Pursuant to the National Trails Act of 1968, as amended, interested parties will ask the U.S. Congress for legislation directing the Secretary of Interior to undertake a feasibility and suitability study of the Bozeman Trail for designation as a National Historic Trail. If the Trail is found to be suitable, interested parties will request final legislation from Congress to formally designate the Bozeman Trail as a National Historic Trail.

Who:  Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association and Our Montana, two 501 (c)(3) non-profit organizations.

The Bozeman Trail: The Trail was established in 1863 as a 535-mile “shortcut” from the Oregon Trail on the North Platte River near Casper, Wyoming to the gold fields around Virginia City, Montana.  The trail passed through the heart of American Indian territories. Increased civilian use and establishment of U.S. military Forts Reno, Phil Kearny, and C. F. Smith prompted a campaign by the tribes against the incursion known as Red Cloud’s War which included numerous skirmishes and three major battles including the Fetterman Battle in 1866, and the Wagon Box, and Hay Field fights in 1867.   As a result of the resistance, use of the Trail was discontinued, and the three forts were abandoned in 1868.

Feasibility Study: The study will include identification of a continuous route located as closely and practically as possible to the original route, affirmation of national historic significance, education and recreation opportunities, and economic benefits to communities.  The study will include full public participation with community meetings and a comment period from which the study team will measure public desirability for National Historic Trail designation.

National Trail Designation:  Designation will not impact private landowners.  There will be no restrictions or encumbrances placed on private land where the trail route is located.  For public lands managed by the BLM in Wyoming, and for federal/private split estate settings, Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plans (RMP’s) in Wyoming currently contain protective measures for intact segments of the Bozeman Trail. Designation of the Bozeman Trail as a National Historic Trail would not require revisions to the BLM RMP’s resulting in additional avoidance or protective measures.

Benefits: (1) Increased interest, visitation, and revenue at associated publicly available historic sites and museums, (2) Enhanced grant applications for preservation and education along the Bozeman Trail corridor and associated sites such as Fort Phil Kearny, (3) Economic benefits to local communities through increased visitation.

Public Outreach: To garner understanding and seek support we have reached out to elected officials at the local, county, state, and national levels, as well as landowners, Indian Tribes, museums, organizations, and a wide spectrum of interested parties. Articles about our effort have appeared in Montana and Wyoming newspapers.

List of Supporters:  Many have submitted letters of support to you. All have granted permission to list them as supporters of this request.

Organizations:  Wyoming State Historical Society, Wyoming Office of Tourism, Douglas Wyoming City Council, Sheridan County Travel & Tourism, Sheridan County Historic Preservation Commission, Sheridan Community Land Trust, Museum at the Big Horns, Hoofprints of the Past Museum, Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, Big Horn City Historical Society, Natrona County Historical Preservation Commission, Fort Caspar Museum Association, Montana Historical Society, Beartooth Resource, Conservation and Development Inc., Friends of the Story Mansion, Converse County Historical Society, Douglas Historic Preservation Commission, Museum at the Bighorns,  Oregon-California Trail Association, Partnership for National Trail Systems.


Individuals: Becky Kallevig  -Archaeologist, Gerold Groenewold- Bozeman Trail landowner, Howard Boggess- Crow Indian - Museum Manager retired, Don (Doc) Woerner Veterinary, Ron (RL) Garritson-- Bozeman Trail Reenactors, Gene Wade -Bozeman Trail  Land Owner, Ralph Saunders- Trail Researcher, Jerome A. Greene – author and historian, John Monnett, PhD –author and historian, Frank Bodden, Ted Karam,  Jim Court, Mary Ellen McWilliams, Susan Badger-Doyle, PhD – Bozeman Trail scholar, Patty Molinaro Hooker- Rancher - Museum Curator, Frank Bodden, Bozeman Trail/Powder River Wars social media admin., Dale Anderson - Our Montana.


Desired Outcome:  Congressional legislation to direct the Secretary of Interior to undertake the feasibility study to list the Bozeman Trail as a National Historic Trail. We will make a formal request to the U.S. congressional delegations of Wyoming and Montana in 2022 for the feasibility study legislation. The project proponents do not support and will not request any acquisitions of private land or federal management of the Bozeman Trail on private land.




Dave McKee: President, Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association: 

Mike Penfold: Field Program Manager, Our Montana, Inc:,


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