Gold Rush 49ers, the Bear River divide

Emigrants who expected Fort Bridger to be like Forts Laramie or Kearney were disappointed. “It’s built of poles and dabbed with mud; it is a shabby concern,” said one visitor. Built in 1843 by the famous frontiersman Jim Bridger to sell supplies to the wagon trains and trade with the Indians, the fort did offer much welcome fresh water, shade trees and grass along Black’s Fork of the Green River.

Fort Bridger

Shoshone braves from a nearby village could be seen riding horses atop the nearby bluffs. But the trail soon returned to the same arid, alkaline country as before. Men complained bitterly about the dust that irritated their eyes so much that they couldn’t see. The water was unfit to drink. Oxen continued to die and were left along the trail.

Green River, Wyoming

The road ran constantly up and down until they reached a pass—a 1000 feet higher than South Pass—that ran between the Green River, whose waters flowed to the Colorado River, and the Bear River, that made a big loop north then turned south to empty into the Great Salt Lake. Many men camped here in a grove of fir trees near a brook of clear, cool water. Behind them they could see the wagons along the road they had just traveled looking like spiders as they wove along the winding trail. Descending into the Bear River Valley the trees grew thicker than anything they had seen since leaving the Mississippi. More animals appeared. Sage hens and prairie dogs made for an excellent change of diet. Geese, ducks and cranes flocked around the river. Robins and blue birds sang from the trees.

Bear River, UT

Beside the river horseflies and mosquitoes attacked the travelers mercilessly in the daytime, but the night was too cold for the persistent pests. Indians from a nearby village wanting to trade hounded many emigrants. One man described them as “inferior in stature and appearance and not comparing at all with the manly Sioux.” He went on to say they were “filthy in the extreme with swarms of vermin on their bodies.” Most of the 49ers moved on quickly and soon came to a well-known spring alternately called Bear, Steamboat or Soda Springs because of the effervescent quality of the water. In another four miles the river turned sharply south and flowed on to the Great Salt Lake, having looped the Wasatch Mountains.

Shoshone Indians

Shoshone Indians fording a river



  1. I would like to know more about Fort Bridger bridge. My friend found a dirty paper on the ground. It was addressed Clark County, Illinois. It said something about Jim Bridger and Fort Bridger. Please say more about Fort Bridger bridge and how it got destroyed. Thank you for your time.

  2. Nice article John…

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