Monday, July 10, 2017

The Final Crossing of the Platte

Upon our arrival in Casper, Wyoming, Tim and I set up camp on the banks of the North Platte River at River's Edge RV Resort.  I couldn't help but compare our situation with the much more primitive camps the Oregon Trail pioneers formed. 

The Platte River

As the pioneers converged here to cross the Platte River for the last time, they would be leaving behind the familiar river and facing miles of barren and inhospitable travel without water, and assaulted by relentless winds.

Crossing the Platte River by William Henry Jackson

" our lov'd friend platt river a final farewell this morning after camping nearly every night on it for a month, and are again left entirely out of sight of timber, and have to make out on sage..."  Sarah Sutton, 1854

I hesitate to complain, especially in contrast to the hard lot of the pioneers, but after two very full days of travel, I was grateful we had made reservations for two nights here.  That gave us the chance to sleep in, attend worship services, restock the refrigerator and do the laundry.

Highland Park Community Church was nearby making our choice of where to attend worship services easy.  This church reminded us of Tim's home church, Willow Creek Community Church, in Chicago.  The praise band and the pastor's message were geared to appeal to those who are seeking to understand God's place in their lives.  Pastor Mike Fackler was leading a series of sermons called "At the Movies."  He used clips from the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, to talk about how a believer's deeply-held convictions could influence those around him, a call to forsake blending in with the mainstream.  I left thinking that too often I've been trying to please people by not offending them with my beliefs instead of living my life before an audience of one, that is, God.  I vowed to do better.

We drove by Fort Casper, but didn't stop.  A devilish windstorm had blown into the city that made us reluctant to leave the car.  Besides, after seeing Fort Laramie, in our opinion, this post was underwhelming.

Bottom photo shows the museum's scope:
The Oregon Trail, the California Trail, The Mormon Trail and the Pony Express

However, Casper's National Historic Trails Interpretive Center received five stars from us.  First of all, it was free.  Second, the interactive exhibits were designed to appeal to all ages by pulling you into the action of the Oregon Trail.  We counted rotations of a handkerchief tied to wagon wheel to estimate the mileage traversed.

We road a prairie schooner wagon across a simulated raging river.

I pulled a handcart just as the Mormons bound for Zion did and boy, was it a strain on my muscles.  

Tim discovered how heavy a backpack of belongings could be.  

We climbed into a stagecoach and later another prairie schooner, a lighter wagon than a Conestoga and preferred by the pioneers.  

All of that, plus lots of information and first-person accounts of the trail's hardships, made our visit very worthwhile.

One additional place that also received a high rating from us was Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park just a mile or two from our campground.  As we walked the trails there next to the Platte River, my imagination could picture the difficulties the pioneers experienced as they crossed this swiftly flowing river. 

"Here we had a great deal of trouble swimming our cattle across, taking our wagons to pieces, unloading and replacing our traps.  A number of accidents happened here.  A lady and four children were drowned through the carelessness of those in charge of the ferry."  Sallie Hester, 1849

Quite frankly, I don't know how they did it.


  1. The pioneers sure had a different skill set than folks of today to overcome all of the natural obstacles and hardships. Tough hombres back then! Safe travels

  2. The women were tougher, in my opinion! These ladies, trailing skirts and fractious children, not to mention birthing babies when their time came, were often not on the Trail by their own choice, but because their husbands had wanderlust.