Fort Laramie in Wyoming offers many different restored buildings that, combined with the staff dressed in period clothing, transports visitors back in time. Learn about the important history of the area, all while having fun and participating in the many programs offered by knowledgeable people who really care about spreading the fort’s storied past. Started as a fur trading post before being transformed to a military garrison in 1834 (one that played a strategic and significant role in helping to transform the United States).
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It operated for 56 years and saw a nearly constant wave of fur traders and trappers, missionaries, Native Americans, soldiers, homesteaders, and more. It was eventually abandoned and sold in 1890, where it laid dormant until becoming part of the national parks system in 1938.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
The fort is open all year round, although the visitor center is closed on major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day). As of 2015, admission to the fort and visitor center is offered free of charge!
Guests, especially those who have not visited the fort grounds before, should strongly consider taking in one of the daily interpretive talks that cover many themes specific to the history and culture of the fort. These talks last around half an hour and are only offered during the summer. The website maintains a current schedule of topics as well as the next week’s topics for guests can plan ahead and budget time if interested in any of the available interpretive talks. Topics have included weapons demonstrations, guided tours, and talks about women’s clothing expectations.
Most guests report enjoying and touring the entire fort grounds to take around two hours from start to finish. The best place to start is at the visitor center, which offers a wealth of information and things to keep an eye out for while touring the rest of the grounds. The visitor center is located in a restored commissary storehouse from 1884. It offers an orientation film (about twenty minutes in length), many different exhibits (with historic artifacts like weapons and uniforms from when the fort was active), and an award-winning bookstore (see below for additional information).
Outside on the grounds, bugle sounds are heard resonating through the restored buildings (12 of them) dating from 1849 to the late 1880s. For guests who want a little more guidance, there is a self-guided audio tour available to rent for a small fee from the visitor center. In the summer, staff members and volunteers roam the grounds dressed in period appropriate historical garb. The more furnished buildings also host programs as well as guided tours.
Other things to do while visiting the fort are to hike the trail that takes guests from the Old Iron Bridge to where the Laramie and Platt Rivers converge. It also serves as a beautiful nature hike, allowing guests to glimpse the wide variety of wildlife and birds that call the area home.
Children visiting the fort are welcome to join the Junior Rangers! All that is needed to become a ranger is the complete the fun and educational scavenger hunt and activity book. After it is filled out, it can be turned in at the nearby state park (Guernsey) for a commemorative coin and the official designation of Junior Ranger! It is a great way to get children involved in learning the history of the area in a fun and exciting way.
There also are site specific trading cards for children to keep an eye out for while visiting. Many times, these cards are thematic in nature, like focusing on the anniversary of the Civil War.
Children who are interested in doing some research ahead of time should visit the park service’s web ranger program website, which gives additional information about what they might see and do while visiting. They can even build their own virtual “ranger station” while earning rewards!
Dining and Shopping
Although there are no dining options onsite, the fort does offer a large, shaded area for visitors to have a picnic lunch alongside the beautiful Laramie River. It is first come, first serve and all visitors must pick up after themselves. The fort also offers a gift shop and bookstore, operated by the historic association. Every purchase goes directly back to supporting the fort grounds and all programs hosted there. The books there have all been hand selected to further explain the history and importance of the fort for all ages and reading levels.
Fort Laramie, 965 Gray Rocks Road, Fort Laramie, WY, 82212, Phone: 307-837-2221