Casper, Wyoming: Approaching the Continental Divide
By the time their covered wagon caravans reached this area, emigrants had been traveling the Oregon Trail for about two months. From here the Great Plains stretch back to the east; to the west loom the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. Now the Oregon Trail leaves its North Platte River lifeline to start up toward South Pass, where it crosses the Continental Divide.
Explore the Oregon Trail at these places:
- National Historic Trails Interpretive Center (1501 N. Poplar, Casper, Wyo.) Start at this Bureau of Land Management trail center for an interactive overview of the emigrant experience along the Oregon-California-Mormon-Pony Express trail corridor. Open Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Free. From I-25 take Exit 189 and turn north onto N. Poplar St. Follow directional signs to the center.
- Independence Rock National Historic Landmark (west of Alcova, Wyo.) This granite dome was one of the most famous landmarks of the Oregon Trail. Thousands of emigrants camped around it and hundreds carved their names into the rock. Take WY-220 west from Casper for 55.5 miles to milepost 63. Turn right onto Emigrant Trail Road and follow signs to the Independence Rock rest area on the left side of the highway.
- Devil’s Gate and Mormon Handcart Historic Site (WY-220 west of Independence Rock, Wyo.) Devil’s Gate is a cleft cut through a rock ridge by the Sweetwater River. Stop at the Bureau of Land Management interpretive pullout along the highway for an overview and to see wagon ruts. Continue to the Mormon Handcart Visitor Center (free) to learn about the 1857 Mormon handcart tragedy and to try your hand at pulling a handcart, and take a mile hike to explore Devil’s Gate, Rattlesnake Pass, and historic wagon ruts and graves. From Independence Rock turn left onto WY-220 and drive west for 5.5 miles to the interpretive pullout on the right side of the highway. Then continue west for ¾ mile and turn right onto the entrance road to the handcart center. Park at the center. A signed path will take you east toward Devil’s Gate.