National Register of Historic Places


Fort Bonneville

Sublette County

Date Added to Register

Tuesday, April 28, 1970

Smithsonian Number

48SU29

Read all about it

Following in the tracks of the fur traders Captain Benjamin Bonneville, 7th U.S. Infantry, headed West with an expedition in May of 1832. Taking an extended leave of absence from the Army, Bonneville was interested in establishing new enterprises in the fur business. An additional and unofficial purpose of his expedition was to explore the region of the Rocky Mountains and report to the government about the natural features of the region as well as the conditions of the fur trade and the character and customs of the native Indian tribes. Backing for the venture was obtained through eastern financiers.

Leaving form Fort Osage on the Missouri, the party consisted of 110 men, about 20 wagons and an assortment of mules, horses and cattle. By August of 1832 Captain Bonneville's band had reached the Green River, or ''Sisk ke dee'' as it was then called by the trappers. In arriving at the Green River the Bonneville party had traversed South Pass and had achieved the distinction of being the first to take wheeled vehicles across the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains. Bonneville became apprehensive about the presence of hostile Blackfeet Indians in the vicinity and directed his men to construct a fortified winter camp on the right bank of the Green River. Designed primarily for protection the stockaded structure was completed August 9, 1832. In all probability Bonneville intended to also operate this ''fort'' as a fur trading center in the heart of the mountain trapping grounds. Nature intervened when the early and heavy fall snows caused Bonneville to change his mind and abandon the site, apparently believing the location to be a poor one. The Bonneville party moved south and west from the Green River during the remainder of 1832 exploring many areas of what is now Wyoming.

The considerable amount of labor expended in constructing Fort Bonneville, followed by its almost immediate abandonment, led many to refer to it as ''Fort Nonsense'' or ''Bonneville's Folly.'' Though Bonneville's post was of little lasting significance it was the first of its kind in the region and heralded the coming of the fixed trading post concept in the fur trade.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources