Fort Phil Kearny Historic Site
Wyoming State Historic Site, National Historic Landmark and Interpretive Center
THIS PAGE CONTAINS:
A TRAVEL GUIDE Along
and Museums w/ Exhibits Rich in
Native American History, Archaeology, Art, and
TRAVEL the HISTORIC BOZEMAN TRAIL
Art copyright by Robert C. Wilson
A Brief Overview of the Historic Bozeman Trail
The Historic Bozeman Trail was used by Native Americans and wildlife long before 1863 when John Bozeman and John Jacobs identified a shortcut for emigrants traveling from the North Platte River, Wyoming to Montana’s gold-fields.
About 3,500 emigrants traveled the Bozeman Trail from 1863-1866 through the Powder River Country – the heart of the Northern Plains Indians last and best hunting grounds. A clash of cultures and epic events followed.
The newly promoted Bozeman Trail triggered the military to build three forts along the Trail to protect emigrants and other travelers to the gold fields. Forts Reno and Phil Kearny were built in now Johnson County, WY, and Fort C.F. Smith in what is now the Crow Reservation, MT. Native Americans recognized these forts as pathway to destroy their way of life and were determined to protect their homeland and their hunting grounds.
After many battles and untold lives lost, the Army closed the route to emigrants in 1866. The Bozeman Trail continued as a military route until the 1868 abandonment of the three forts. Deciding factors were the consequences of the Dec. 21st, 1866 Fetterman Fight, the completion of railroad south of the Powder River Country in 1868, and the pending Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Heavy military and civilian use of the Bozeman Trail resumed in the early 1870’s with the discovery of gold in the Black Hills. Leading to another consequence – the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The most significant conflicts along the Bozeman Trail occurred in Johnson and Sheridan Counties, WY. The “Travel the Historic Bozeman Trail” pamphlet and this website page helps guide visitors to historic sights and sites along the Trail.
Over 280 miles of the Bozeman Trail corridor are along Wyoming’s I-25 and I-90. To obtain print copies of the brochure “Travel the Historic Bozeman Trail” please contact fpkbta@gmail,com
Many of the Bozeman Trail corridor highlights along Wyoming’s I-25 and I-90 are located in Johnson and Sheridan Counties.
This information is provided by the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association with partial funding with thanks to the Johnson County Tourism Association .
Established in 1985, the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to the preservation, development, education, and promotion of the historic sites at Fort Phil Kearny, its related sites, and along the Bozeman Trail.
Highways Through History
Historic Sites Along Wyoming’s Bozeman Trail Corridor I-25 and I-90
Fort Laramie National Historic Site: Thousands of emigrants, traders, miners, and military members bound for Oregon, California, the Salt Lake Valley, Powder River Country, and Montana gold fields stopped at this fort between 1834-1890. Fort Laramie hosted several treaty negotiations with Northern Plains tribes, including the controversial Treaty of 1868. The park grounds are open from dawn until dusk every day of the year. Some historic buildings may be closed in winter. About 30 miles off I-25. 307-837-2221 x3002; 965 Gray Rocks Road, Fort Laramie. www.nps.gov/fola/index.htm
Horseshoe Creek Station: "During the 1850s and 1860s, wagon freighters fed and watered mules and oxen, exchanged tired stagecoach horses for fresh ones, and conducted other tasks at the historic Horseshoe Creek Station near here. In December 1866 John "Portugee" Phillips stopped at the Horseshoe Creek Station during his legendary 235-mile ride through a blizzard from Fort Phil Kearny to Fort Laramie after the Fetterman Fight". Signage only, no services. 2.5 miles off I-25 - Exit 111
Wyoming Pioneer Museum, WY State Parks: Located on the Wyoming State Fairground in Douglas, this museum houses large collections of western history memorabilia and Indian artifacts. Open year round with limited winter hours. WY State Fairgrounds, 400 W. Center St. Douglas. 307-358-9288 Exit 140 off I-25
Fort Fetterman State Historic Site: "Established on a bluff above the North Platte River where the Bozeman Trail left the old Oregon Trail route to head north for the Montana gold fields. Fort Fetterman was used frequently as a staging location for U.S. Army expeditions during the Indian Wars. The museum’s exhibits, restored buildings, and trails leading to the remains of the Fort, provide a glimpse into Army operations at this remote outpost and into the boom and bust of the post-military town of Fetterman", named for Capt. William J. Fetterman. Open seasonally. 752 State Hwy 93, Douglas. 307-358-2864
Paleon Museum: The Glenrock Paleon Museum and Dr. Robert T. Bakker Education Center was founded in November 1994 after the discovery of Stephanie, a Triceratops, by the curator Sean Smith at a site north of Glenrock (along the Bozeman Trail corridor). The museum houses dinosaur bones found in Wyoming from the Jurassic and Cretaceous Eras. Seasonal hours. 506 W. Birch Street, Glenrock. 307-436-2667
Reshaw Park: For more than a decade in the mid-1800s, Reshaw’s (Richard’s) Bridge just east of Casper, was the most important crossing of the North Platte River. “In 1864 Richard's Bridge was the departure point for the four large trains that opened the Bozeman Trail.”
Located next to the North Platte River, a replica of the bridge is displayed in the park. This park is open year round during daylight. About 3 miles off I-25 on Platte Park Road, Evansville.
Fort Caspar Museum: This reconstructed 1865 military post feature “exhibits on prehistoric peoples, Plains Indians, ranching, the energy industry, and the City of Casper as well as the western emigrant trails and frontier army”. Seasonal hours for museum. Grounds open year round. 4001 Fort Caspar Rd, Casper. www.fortcasparwyoming.com
National Historic Trails Center: This interpretive center is operated by the Bureau of Land Management, and tells the “stories of American Indians, early explorers, and the Oregon, Mormon, California, and Pony Express trails. Interactive exhibits, including simulated covered wagon and stagecoach rides, life-size displays, and interpretive panels are found throughout the Center's seven galleries.” Open year round, closed federal holidays. 1501 North Poplar Street, Casper. 307-261-7700
Hoofprints of the Past Museum: Located in the Western heritage-rich small town of Kaycee, in the heart of Powder River Country, Hoofprints of the Past Museum is must-see. The museum fulfills their mission to “preserve the unique local cultural heritage of Kaycee and the surrounding countryside. That heritage includes Native Americans, the Bozeman Trail, Trappers, Traders, and Pioneers, Fort Reno, German Missionaries settlement, and the Portuguese Houses site, conflicts with natives such as the Dull Knife Battle, the Cattle Boom, Cattle Barons and Frewen Castle, the Johnson County War, the Outlaw Era, the Hole in the Wall Gang, Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, Kid Curry, and other local outlaws”. Just a few blocks off I-25, open year-round, seasonal winter hours. Offers guided tours. 344 Nolan Avenue, Kaycee. 307-738-2381 www.hoofprintsofthepast.org
Chris LeDoux Memorial Park: This park and monument honor the late singer-songwriter and hall of fame rodeo champion (and Western history buff) with a one and half time life-size bronze by Western history sculptor D. Michael Thomas. This park, too, is located just off I-25, across from Hoofprints of the Past Museum. The park is open year-round during daytime only.
Note: 27 miles outside of Kaycee is Fort Reno, signage only, National Register of Historic Places, land owned by State of Wyoming. No services to and at this location. Gravel roads.
South of Buffalo
Crazy Woman Crossing: The high hills surrounding the Crazy Woman crossing offered excellent opportunities for observation or attack from warriors on Bozeman Trail travelers, which became common occurrences during 1866-1868. Signage and views of untouched landscape. South of Buffalo, approx. 14 miles Trabing Road east to Buffalo Sussex Road. No services going to or at this location. Gravel roads.
Buffalo -All a few minutes off I-25 and I-90
Mountain Plains Heritage Park: The park’s trail crosses the Bozeman Trail and offers interpretive signs depicting life on the western plains and railroad history. At the park’s high point, you are able to visualize a portion of the Bozeman Trail. 2 miles off I-25 on Stockyard Road.
Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum: With over 40,000 artifacts this museum houses one of the most historically significant collections on Johnson County and regional history. Focusing on events that include along the Bozeman Trail and Johnson County Cattle War, as well as Basque, Native American, Frontier and other local cultural artifacts and exhibits. Additionally, the museum showcases outstanding temporary exhibits. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. National Medal for Museum and Library Service 2023 Winner.
100 Fort St. 307-684-9331 Open year-round with seasonal hours. A few minutes off I-25 Buffalo. www.jimgatchell.com
Historic Downtown Buffalo and Occidental Hotel: Quaint parks and shops, and more than a dozen historic buildings, including the Occidental Hotel, where Owen Wister's Virginian finally "got his man”. Others who visited were Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, and Calamity Jane, who drove freight wagons on the Bozeman Trail. Be on the lookout for more D. Michael Thomas bronze statues including “After the Dust Settles” of two war horses finding quiet time after their riders fought. One mile off I-25.
North of Buffalo, Johnson County
Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site: Over 1,000 acres of spectacular views much like it was in July of 1866 when Colonel Carrington and the 18th Infantry arrived to construct forts along the Bozeman Trail– in the heart of the Northern Plains Indians homeland and their last best hunting grounds. After two years of what is called Red Cloud’s War, the Fort was abandoned in 1868. The Fort Phil Kearny Interpretive Center is open daily in summer with otherwise seasonal hours. The grounds are open year-round sunrise to sunset. About 3 miles off of I-90, exit 44. 307-684-7629. 528 Wagon Box Road, Banner. www.fortphilkearny.com
Fetterman Battle Site: Before Custer there was Fetterman. On Dec. 21, 1866 Capt. Wm. Fetterman, along with 80 men rode out of Fort Phil Kearny and over Lodge Trail Ridge to fight Indians who had attacked wood trains. All 81 men from the fort did not return alive. The Fetterman State and National Historic Site is much like it was over 150 years ago, with a walking trail of which about a mile is the Bozeman Trail. Open sunrise to sunset. 3.3 miles from Fort Phil Kearny and less than 5 miles off I-90, Exit 44. www.fortphilkearny.com
Wagon Box Battle Site and Monument: On August 2, 1867, 32 men fought off hundreds of Indians during an attack on the wood trains. Most of the soldiers survived using recently obtained Springfield breech loading rifles, more efficient than the previously used muzzle loading riffles. This location is a State and National Historic Site, and up against the Bighorn National Forest Foothills. This site is much like it was 150 years ago looking in most directions. About 4 miles from Fort Phil Kearny. 333 Wagon Box Road, Story. www.fortphilkearny.com
Bozeman Trail Museum: “Built in 1879 by the Rock Creek Stage Line, the Blacksmith Shop, now home to the Bozeman Trail Museum, originally satisfied the needs of the nearby Bozeman Trail, connecting south-eastern Wyoming to Virginia City, Montana. The collection includes Indian artifacts, dentistry tools, photos of our area, pioneer clothing, books, blacksmith tools, and many other artifacts from pioneer families”. About 10 miles south of Sheridan, this museum is open 11 – 4 on weekends– June, July & Aug. or by appointment. 335 South Johnson St., Big Horn. 307-751-4908 or 307-751-5741. www.bighorncity.org
The Brinton Museum: Art – History - Nature Trails – Architecture: This world class museum is a regional gem. "The Museum’s 24,000-square-foot houses one of the most significant and extensive Western and American Indian Art collections in the Rocky Mountain West. The architecture of the Museum’s rammed earth wall is the largest in North America". 239 Brinton Road, Big Horn. 307- 672-3173. Open daily in summer, with seasonal hours. www.thebrintonmuseum.org
Museum at the Bighorns: “The museum’s collections currently contain more than 30,000 items including photographs, three dimensional objects, and archival materials. The collections feature a range and variety of materials that celebrate western culture, commemorating events, people, and landscapes spanning from the early nineteenth century through to contemporary times. This includes artifacts from Sheridan’s thriving main street and surrounding ranches.” 850 Sibley Circle, Sheridan. 307-675-1150 Open daily in summer, with seasonal hours. www.museumbighorns.org
Historic Sheridan Inn: “The Inn’s most well-known occupant is Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He took up residence of the Inn from 1894 to 1902. During that time, Cody would use the front lawn to hold auditions for his ‘Wild West’ show. The show depicted life of the ‘old west’ featuring Native American culture and reenactments of frontier events such as a Pony Express Relay Race and most famously, the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The show featured many well-known individuals including Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull.” 856 Broadway Street, Sheridan. 307-674-2178 www.sheridaninn.com
The Don King Museum: Located off the King’s Rope Shop. “The museum houses over three decades of the King family’s dedication to collecting Western and cowboy memorabilia from all over the world. In addition to the hundreds of saddles that line the walls, the Don King Museum also showcases perfectly preserved wagons, coaches, Indian artifacts, guns, Western tack and original artwork”. Open year-round Mon-Sat. 184 N. Main St., Sheridan. 307-672-2702 www.kingssaddlery.com/museum
Trail End State Historic Site: From its authentically furnished rooms to its finely manicured lawns, Trail End State Site offers an elegantly different aspect of Wyoming's colorful ranching history. Built in the Flemish Revival style in 1913, Trail End was the home of John Benjamin Kendrick. A cattle rancher who started out as a Texas cowboy, Kendrick ended up as Governor of Wyoming and a United States Senator. Experience what life was like for this family at the mansion in the early 1900s. 400 Clarendon Ave., Sheridan. 307-674-4589 www.trailend.org
Connor Battlefield Historic Site: On August 29th, 1865, over 300 soldiers and Pawnee Indian scouts led by General Patrick Connor, during his Powder River Indian Expedition’s mission, attacked Black Bear’s Arapaho village located nearby this site. This State site offers signage, seasonal camping and picnic areas. County Road 67, Ranchester. Less than 2 miles off I-90. www.wyoparks.org
This information focuses on historical sites along Wyoming’s Bozeman Trail primary travel route along and off I-25 and I-90 and is provided by the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association. For information on sites along Montana’s Bozeman Trail, please see Our Montana www.ourmontana.org
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