Get out of the house! Fort Laramie

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Dan Gage
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Only a few miles from U.S. highway 26, and 12 miles east of Camp Guernsey, sits one of the building blocks to America's westward expansion.

Fort Laramie can be seen today in almost the same condition it was more than 150 years ago.

Standing three miles southwest of Fort Laramie, Wyo., a town of approximately 230, the 11 buildings making up the national historical site are still the only structures in the area, and they are preserved to reflect the period in which they were built.

When visiting Fort Laramie, it becomes very easy to imagine being there in 1850, surrounded by 200 to 300 soldiers.

Although Fort Laramie was a military installation for 41 years between 1849 and 1890, its origins began in 1834 when William Sublette and Robert Campbell built a small post, only measuring 100 feet by 80 feet, at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers, originally naming the site Fort William.

This original post was built as a hub for fur traders, especially for local Native-American tribes in the area, and was also a major supply stop for those traveling west.

Beginning in the early 1840s, Fort Laramie, at the time named Fort John, played a key role in helping the nation move west, seeing as many as 50,000 travelers pass through annually in 1850 alone, as emigrants made the 2,000-mile journey along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails -- a migration that took up to five months to finish.

As the number of people traveling west increased, so did hostilities with the local North Plains Indian Tribes. As a result, Fort Laramie became home to military units such as the 7th U.S. Infantry in 1849, when it was officially named Fort Laramie.

Though as many as 20,000 people did not survive the trip west, only 2 percent lost were attributed to conflicts with the native people along the way.

Being in the heart of the North Plains Indian Nations, Fort Laramie played a major role in the Indian Wars, both in times of conflict, and also playing host to several treaty negotiations such as the Horse Creek treaty of 1851 and the Treaty of 1868.

Military life at Fort Laramie was not easy, and even today; it is not hard to imagine the isolation of living at the fort.

With difficult living conditions, strict rules and severe punishment for even minor offenses, the desertion rate between 1865 and 1890 was 33 percent.

The fort was eventually dismantled by Buffalo Soldiers and sold to homesteaders for a total of $1,417 in 1890.

Today, 11 buildings stand on the grounds of Fort Laramie, including "Old Bedlam," formerly the bachelor officer's quarters, and the oldest documented building in the state of Wyoming.

The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, closed only on Thanksgiving, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1, with extended hours between early June and Labor Day.

Visitors to Fort Laramie can watch a video in the visitor center detailing the history of the fort and the surrounding area, receive 10 percent off purchases in the gift shop and take an audio tour of the fort and it's restored buildings.

During the summer months, visitors may also enjoy live history exhibits and reenactments, such as black-powder and cannon demonstrations.

Military members have free access to Fort Laramie, along with access to more than 390 other parks in the National Parks System with a free annual pass for service members.

An annual pass may be attained at any National Park by presenting a service members Common-Access Card or Department of Defense Form 1173. The pass will be good for 12 months from the date issued.

For more information on Fort Laramie please call 307-837-2221 or visit

To learn more about the annual pass for military members, or the other parks in the National Parks service, please visit

Look for more features on local activities Airmen can enjoy in the Warren Sentinel's life section in coming weeks.