If you’ve lived in Wyoming for much time at all, chances are you’ve camped at Glendo or Boysen state parks, soaked in a warm pool at Hot Springs State Park or wandered around Oregon Trail ruts.But have you camped in a military tent while penning your thoughts in a historic journal, played on the sand dunes near Seminoe Reservoir or admired the 10,000-year-old petroglyphs at Medicine Lodge?
Fort Bridger, Seminoe and Medicine Lodge are all part of Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails, and they’re all worth a visit this summer.
Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site
Instead of just a historic site or location of one of the frontier’s bloodiest battles, Misty Stoll would like you to imagine the entire 1,100-acre Fort Phil Kearney as an artifact to be explored.
The state historic area was the largest military stockade in the west and the location of the Fetterman Fight. It is also where people and animals migrated through for at least 10,000 years. It has 54 stone rings, most of which are remnants of teepees.
What remains of the physical infrastructure is an interpretive center, Civilian Conservation Core cabin, corners of the massive stockade and a monument. But what can be found there is much, much more, Stoll said.
“We are showcasing our true artifact which is the open space,” she said. “We want them to have the most meaningful experience we can help them create.”
The site is building a trail that runs 2 miles each direction through the Little Piney area to the cemetery and to a point called Pilot Nob. It will be open Aug. 1, and may one day become an 8-mile trail. An observatory paid for through local support opens July 1, and will offer visitors a look deep into the sky.
“Here at the Fort there are 1,100 acres to help tell the story of what open space is, in all its glamorous and not so glamorous ways,” she said. “And what the land could offer people about how to live in and on it.”
- : Off of Interstate 90 between Buffalo and Sheridan
For more information:
Fort Bridger State
While you might consider yourself a seasoned camping veteran, chances are high you haven’t had a complete historic camping experience.
Fort Bridger, a historic site with remnants from previous occupants from mountain men to Mormons to the military, will soon give you the chance. And the experience comes complete with a cot, complimentary fritter mix, card games, lanterns and a journal and ink pen to jot down your thoughts.
“A lot of state parks offer beginner camping programs, where people don’t have camping equipment and the park provides the essentials to get people interested. This is the same thing but with a historical site,” said Chris Floyd, the site’s superintendent. “I took that idea with a beginner camping program and thought ‘let’s make one for someone interested in historical camping and give them the opportunity to do that.’”
Beginning June 1, campers can sleep in a military-style or pioneer tent from the 1850s. It’s called 1859 Camping, after a book called “The Prairie Traveler” written in 1859 by an Army officer. The book was a guide to traveling across the country in the mid-1800s, and included tips for camping and cooking.
“Some people might want to prepare some meals based on historic recipes,” he said. “We will provide those recipes. We will have a full gambit of cooking utensils and cots made on the old designs.”
Tents can easily accommodate five to seven people, and rent for $59 a night and $10 for an additional tent. An interpreter in full historic clothing will provide instructions and then you can explore on your own. Plan to bring your own sleeping bag.
- : Three miles off of Interstate 80 in southwest Wyoming near Lyman
For more information
- : 307-782-3842
Seminoe State Park
Nestled into the Seminoe Mountains, Seminoe Reservoir has more than 180 miles of shoreline and collects water from two rivers.
Much of the shoreline is private, which makes it ideal for anyone with a boat, said Steve Horn, the park’s superintendent.
Its campgrounds, however, are often just enough off the beaten path to provide space for the wandering traveler.
Nearby sand dunes on Bureau of Land Management land offer 4-Wheeling opportunities. Most of the dirt roads in the area are enrolled in the state’s off-road vehicle program, which means recreationists can use dirt bikes or other vehicles not registered for regular roads.
“Fishing is usually great,” Horn said. “Everyone comes back with the same story, they catch maybe 30 fish in a day, and only keep the fish they have to keep.”
Expect exceptional spring brown trout fishing and fat walleyes, camping and playgrounds.
- : North of Interstate 80 on County Road 351.
For more information
- : 307-320-3013
Medicine Lodge State Archeological Site
Go back more than 10,000 years when you stand at Medicine Lodge in the Big Horn Mountains.
An 800-foot sandstone wall displays hundreds of examples of American Indian pictographs and petroglyphs from some of the area’s earliest inhabitants, said Brooks Jordan, the site’s superintendent.
The spot served as an oasis for early people by providing shelter, food and water. It was also a stopover point for two major migration routes from north to south and east to west. Early people used the site as a trading place for things like beads and pottery. Archeologists have since found stone tools and projectile points.
Pictures on the rock include shield figures representing warriors, elk, beaver, mountain lions and birds and abstract drawings.
A nearby campground lets visitors take their time exploring the site and is being expanded to handle even more visitors.
“It’s an oasis, and probably one of the highlights of the sites in our system,” Jordan said. “People can come and camp and recreate and be a part of where people have been for more than 10,000 years.”
- : Take Highway 16/20 to Manderson and turn onto State Route 31. Travel 21 miles to Cold Springs Road, then County Road 52
For more information
- : 307-469-2234