Fort Bridger is just one of the many stops pioneers made on their westward journey, and you can learn about it at The California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, Nevada. Fort Bridger was an important destination for travelers to rest, restock supplies, and get vital information about the upcoming legs of the journey, and even letters from home. It played a large role in shepherding Mormon immigrants to the Salt Lake City region.
Fort Bridger was founded in southern Wyoming by the famous mountain man, Jim Bridger, along with his partner, Louis Vasquez. Bridger was so well-known, he was sometimes called the “Daniel Boone of the Rockies.” Though it had humble beginnings – just a few simple buildings and a blacksmith shop – Fort Bridger became an important rest stop for westward-bound immigrants. Brigham Young eventually purchased the fort as tensions between the mountain men and the Mormons grew, but Bridger disputed the validity of the purchase. No one knows what happened between the two men.
Not only was Fort Bridger an important California Trail fort for travelers to rest, but it also provided an opportunity to restock much-needed supplies. Local Native Americans offered things like fur, fresh meat, and moccasins. After the Mormon settlers purchased the fort, weary travelers could also expect to find:
- Dried fruit
- Salted pork
- Blacksmithing services
The Pony Express
Though the Pony Express was only in existence for 18 months, it became a famous part of the history of the West, and Fort Bridger was one of the stops along the way. Claiming to cover 1,800 miles in just ten days, the Pony Express was the fastest way to send or receive letters. Immigrants could hope for a message while staying at Fort Bridger, or send one back home much more quickly than was otherwise possible.
Sadly, it never turned a profit, and the government had other uses for Fort Bridger. A mild skirmish between the government and the Mormon settlers led to the destruction of Fort Bridger. Mormon settlers had burned it to the ground before retreating to Salt Lake City. Because of disputes over the ownership of the fort, Bridger was able to lease what remained to the Army. During the phase of military occupation, Fort Bridger underwent many changes, before eventually being sold off to the public. Fort Bridger is now a historical site.
Step Into the Past
Visit the California Trail Interpretive Center and learn about Fort Bridger and other stops along the famous trail. Step into the past by visiting a simulated pioneer encampment, or a Shoshone village. The history of the West is waiting for you.