Alfred Jacob Miller (Public Domain)
During the legendary days of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, the list of mountain men crossing the Bad Pass Trail and floating furs from the mouth of Bighorn Canyon to the Yellowstone River read like a who's who of the mountains. Jedediah Smith, Alexander Henry, William Ashley, Milton Sublette, Jim Bridger, and Jim Beckwourth.
The Bad Pass Trail
Crossing the trail brought considerable risks. There were maulings by grizzly bears and attacks by hostile tribes. Conversely, the trail was much easier to cross than overland routes further south or a trek across the high country of the Bighorn Mountains. With one notable exception no one wanted to chance the dangerous rapids of the down in the Bighorn Canyon.
The trappers would then run the bullboats down the Bighorn to the Yellowstone River. From there they would head downriver to forts either on the Yellowstone itself or near its confluence on the Missouri. The fur packs would then be placed on keelboats, headed for St. Louis. The furs were exceedingly valuable. In 1825, William Ashley and his Rocky Mountain Fur Company's men brought in $50,000 worth of furs. This would be literally millions of dollars in today's terms.
Back To the Mountains
The era of the beaver fur trade lasted from approximately 1805 to 1840. The whims of fashion then changed, silk replacing beaver fur on hats worn by the masses in the eastern United States and Europe.