Oregon Trail Historic Byway
A typical view along the Oregon Trail Historic Byway
From the Nebraska line to Casper, Wyoming, the Oregon, California and Mormon Pioneer Trails paralleled the North Platte River. Today, US Highway 26 follows that same route. 58 miles of that route between the state line and the intersection with Interstate 25 are now designated as the Oregon Trail Historic Byway.
If you drive the route, you'll see signage pointing out places where you can visit with the wagon wheel ruts that still show in some rocky areas. You can also pay a visit to Register Cliff National Historic Site and see where emigrants signed their names using axle grease on the face of the limestone cliff.
Probably the largest concentration of historical buildings along the route is at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. For many years, emigrants on the big trails would stop at Fort Laramie and rest and restock their supplies before pressing on. Fort Laramie also played a big part in most of the Indian Wars that were fought in Wyoming and Montana after the Civil War.
In 1875, the Iron Bridge was built across the North Platte River to make it easier for travellers and troops to reach the main roads on the river's north shore. General George Crook and his troops crossed the bridge in 1876 on their way to meet up with General George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry in Montana. However, Custer found a large camp of Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux at the Little Bighorn first... The Iron Bridge was in daily use until 1958 when it was finally retired.
Fort Laramie National Historic Site as viewed from the Oregon Trail Historic Byway
The Iron Bridge crosses the North Platte River to Fort Laramie
Area map of the Oregon Trail Historic Byway