United States, Wyoming

Wyoming Explored: National Historic Trails Interpretive Center

You have died from dysentery.

I’ve always been obsessed with the Oregon Trail, growing up in Wyoming and spending hours of my elementary school years playing on the game on those gigantic floppy discs. In fact, I credit my microbiology degree choice to the Oregon Trail game, as I was an overly curious (if not morbid) child who had to look up what dysentery was, and ended up falling in love with the microbial world. As an adult who often travels all around the state for work and pleasure in air conditioning and cruising speed of 70mph, I still struggle to comprehend that people walked through this harsh, rugged landscape that makes up Wyoming.

Photo of me in elementary school on a field trip to a pioneer schoolhouse maybe in like 4th grade or so. I took my love for the Oregon Trail seriously, clearly! My mom sewed this whole outfit for me!

The great expanse of Wyoming was criss-crossed with several historic pioneer trails aside from the Oregon – the Mormon Trail, Overland Trail, Pony Express, and California Trail all crossed the state some way or another. One day I want to do a road trip to visit a lot of the sights and scenes along the Oregon Trail, but until then… there was the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper to whet my appetite!

The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center opened in 2002 as a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Historic Trails Center Foundation, and the City of Casper, Wyoming.  It is a beautiful, huge building right off of I-25 in northwest Casper, tucked into the hillside (which actually makes it blend in and not easy to notice). From the outside you get a beautiful panoramic view of Casper Mountain and surrounding prairie.

The Trails Center commemorates Native American history, early explorers, and the travel corridor of the Oregon, Mormon, California, and Pony Express trails, as well as the Bridger and Bozeman trails through hands-on, interactive exhibits, multi-media programs, and virtual education opportunities.  

BLM website

Coming through Casper on the way to Yellowstone in September 2021, I knew this would make a great pitstop to stretch my legs to break up the long drive. Time to dive into the world of 1841-1868 pioneers!

The entrance

Each of the main historic trails have their own exhibit. Some exhibits have interactive features which are a lot of fun, even for me as an adult – simulated river ford in a wagon, pulling a Mormon handcart, and stage coach ride. Fun for all ages, I’d say!

History isn’t as old in Wyoming as it is in the eastern United States! Wyoming’s second largest city didn’t even exist in 1812!
West coast is the best coast!
I love this quote!
The real life version of going to the general store in the Oregon Trail game…

Upon entering the covered wagon so I could ford a river…
“Where are you traveling from?”
“Laramie…”
“Whoa, you’re from Wyoming and actually know we’re here? Casper folks don’t even know we’re here. Tell all your friends!”

This is me telling my friends!

Covered wagons did not have suspension, and this was a harsh ride! Definitely fun to ford a simulated river!
I found the infectious disease display!

I rounded out my visit with the passport stamping station after wandering through the gift shop. As I chatted up the ranger he noticed my US Parks Passport book was well loved, and reached into the drawer and pulled out one of the bonus stamps, and told me “We save this one for the serious folks!”

Loaded up on stickers and passport stamps! The Rocky Mountain region in my US Parks Passport was filling up fast, so during this trip I stamped cardstock so I could cut them out and paste them in other spots in the book (like over the regional stamp parts).

All in all, I killed over an hour, brushed up on my history, and enjoyed this stop! I’d definitely stop by on future trips through the area

The Adventure Dinos and I grabbed a photo with the big entrance sign as we were leaving

The Center is located right off of I-25, making it easy to find and access, and there is ample parking for all sorts of vehicles. The address is 1501 N. Poplar St, Casper, WY. The Center is open 7 days a week (except for federal holidays – check website for seasonal hours), and admission is free.

BLM Website: here
National Historic Trails Center Foundation Website: here

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