For forty five years, from 1823 through 1868, Jim Bridger was the seminal figure in the history of Bighorn Canyon. His travels, fur trapping activities, explorations and scouting expeditions brought him to the area on at least three historic occasions. Each of these visits would leave a mark on the history of the American West.
Bridger was born in Richmond, Virginia, but would move west at a young age. His career began in earnest at St. Louis in 1822 when he answered William Ashley’s famous call for “enterprising young men” to work for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. This announcement led to the formation of what would become known as the Mountain Men.
Braving The Bighorn
Over the next three decades, Bridger was one of the great pathfinders in both exploration and enterprise in the west. In 1830 he became the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake. It was also during that decade that along with several of his trapping partners he bought control of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. In 1843, he would build a trading post along Black’s Fork of the Green River, aptly naming it Fort Bridger.
Guiding The Raynolds Expedition
By early September, with Bridger leading the way, the party made its way down the valley of the Bighorn River. By September 9th they were at the mouth of the canyon. It was at this time that Bridger told Raynolds of his river trip some 34 years before.
Did You Know?
Long before the Bighorn River was tamed by the Yellowtail Dam, the roiling waters through the canyon were feared. During spring snowmelt, the water turned into a raging torrent, a combination of whirlpools, rapids, and eddies. Conversely, the river through the canyon had a reputation for being placid by late summer, when dry heat and lack of rainfall turned it into a sedate stream. More...