A Brief History of the Bozeman Trail
by Susan Badger Doyle
The Bozeman Trail began as a gold-rush trail, a shortcut from the main overland trail on the North Platte River to the gold fields of Montana. The several routes of the Trail overlaid earlier Indian, trader and exploration routes in Wyoming and Montana. While only about 3,500 emigrants traversed the trail in 1863-66, its significant consequence was that it cut through the Powder River Basin, the last and best hunting grounds of the Northern Plains Indians, and led to military occupation of the region and ultimately resulted in the Indian wars on the Northern Plains.
After emigrant use ceased, the Trail served as a military road to the forts until it was abandoned in 1868 following the Fort Laramie Treaty. It was used again in 1876 by the forces of General George Crook and shortly after the Battles of the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn, the route was opened and used by settlers.