Modern-day travelers on historic Lander Trail

Courtesy photo Teamster Kay Malkowski guides Bonnie and Sally pulling a wagon with visitors down part of the historic Lander Trail near the Sublette County Fairgrounds last week.

This weekend

thousands of people attended the Sublette

County Fair. One hundred and sixty

years years ago, thousands of emigrants

were at the same place on the Lander

Trail. The trail crosses through the middle

of what is now the Ag Center building.

And, a short section just to the west is

rarely used anymore. The Sublette County

Historical Society and Sublette BOCES

took the opportunity to give Fair visitors

a tour and covered wagon rides along the

old trail.

The Lander Cutoff of the Oregon/ California

Trail was built in 1858 and used extensively

until the transcontinental railroad

was completed in 1869. The new section

of trail provided a short cut from South

Pass to Fort Hall and was the first federally

funded, engineered and built road west

of the Missouri. In 1859, the first year,

13,000 emigrants crossed the trail. Given

that most crossed in July, an average of

300 emigrants and 100 wagons crossed

what is now the fairgrounds each day.

An 1859 registry of 9,000 emigrants

who traveled the Lander Trail indicates

there were an average of three emigrants

per wagon and five livestock (cattle,

horses, mules and sheep) per person. Seventy

percent were headed to California

and 30 percent were headed to Oregon.

After gold was found in Idaho in 1860 and

Montana in 1862, those were also common

destinations. As Albert Bierstadt stated,

“Hundreds of families from what we call

the West, are all bound still further West.”

Most emigrants were coming from Midwest

states: Illinois, 19 percent, Iowa, 14

percent, Missouri, 14 percent, Wisconsin

13 percent and Ohio, 9 percent.

The Lander Trail tours are sponsored

by the Sublette County Historical Society

and Sublette BOCES as a summer series.

Kay Malkowski and her horses Bonnie

and Sally donated the wagon rides. The

wagon was loaned by the Dexter and Carole

Smith family. The event was provided

with assistance from Kaidi Raney, Dawn

Ballou, Ken Marincic and Jay Fear. The

Sublette County Fair Board included the

tours as part of the Fair.

The final summer tour will be at New

Fork River Crossing Historical Park on

Sept. 14. Visit SubletteBOCES.com for

details.

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