Fort Laramie and the Trail West

Fort Laramie changed the trail for many travelers.  For years the Oregon Trail passed along on the south side of the North Platte River. Especially after Fort Laramie, the north side was considered too difficult.

Fort Laramie a mile in the past

 But in later years, on the trail, the north side was utilized as a good alternative to the south.  North of Guernsey, Wyoming is a very big hill, Immigrant Hill, might be a small mountain, that should have deterred even the most fool hardy of travelers, but it did not. 


The Trail west between Fort Laramie and Guernsey, WY

Often wagons had to be towed up the hill, but the same was happening a few miles earlier on the south side of the river, as wagons needed to be towed up Mexican Hill. Finding good graze was a constant problem on trails west. Paths on both sides of the river made a chance to find good grass a possibility – as long as you were not the last train west for the year.

Standing on the Oregon Trail one mile west of Fort Laramie, looking west.

The trip to Fort Laramie was pretty flat, just drive I-80 across Nebraska and you will see what I mean. It does rise about 3,000 feet from the Missouri River to Fort Laramie but it takes 500 miles to do it.  Once the travelers left Fort Laramie, trail hardships became a reality.

 The trail now would rise a thousand feet in a hundred miles which was not too bad. But getting up and down some of the smaller chains of mountains that start to transverse the country at this point was a problem.


Life was good for the travelers, and then they left Fort Laramie.  The tough climb up and down all the way to the Continental Divide became, lighten the wagon miles.

Fort Laramie Today

Photos from March 2014
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