Jim Bridger was a well-known 19th-century trader, scout, explorer, and promoter who established many trails based on his knowledge of Native American routes. He and a partner built a wooden stockade trading post here in 1842. By this time the “mountain man” era was passing swiftly, and the post traded not just with Native Americans but with the emigrant trains that were starting to stream westward. Here the westward-bound Emigrant Trail split into the Mormon Trail (and later the Central Overland branch of the California Trail) to the southwest, and the Oregon Trail (and northern branch of the California Trail) to the northwest.
Mormons acquired the fort in the mid-1850s under disputed circumstances. They abandoned the fort (after burning it) in the late 1850s as the U.S. Army advanced in the so-called “Mormon war.” The fort became an official Army post in 1859, later finding some service in expeditions against local Native American tribes. Fort Bridger was finally decommissioned when Wyoming became a state in 1890.
The Emigrant Trail and the old Mormon Trail became part of the Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast automobile road, in the 1920s. It was later renamed US 30 through here when the numbered route system was introduced in the late 1920s. Interstate 80 largely follows the route today.
A replica (based on contemporary accounts) of the original wooden stockade is located at the site today, as well as some of the original surviving military buildings. Indeed, the museum is housed partly in the restored barracks. Some exhibits dating to the dawn of automobile travel in the early 20th century also exist. They include an early motor court (an example of what would soon be called a motel) as well as some Lincoln Highway memorabilia.
Know Before You Go
The Fort Bridger State Historic Site is just off Interstate 80 at Exit 34, about 2 miles east of the interchange along Business I-80 toward the eponymous town. Check the website for current admission rates and hours.