National Register of Historic Places


Platte River Crossing

Carbon County

Date Added to Register

Thursday, August 12, 1971

Smithsonian Number

48CR432

Read all about it

The significance of the Platte River Crossing Site rests primarily with its being the location where the Overland Trail reached and passed over the North Platte River, a major watercourse along the Trail. The fording of the river at this point was facilitated by the existence of a large island in the middle of the stream which created two channels of lesser water flow. These river channels possessed firm and rocky bottoms, an essential feature for the passage of heavily laden wagons and stages. Because the site offered an abundance of wood, water and forage, it also became a favored camping spot. The first whites known to have passed through the area were the members of the William Ashley fur trade expedition in 1825. Next came John C. Fremont on his second Western exploration in 1843, guided by Kit Carson. In 1849 a group of Cherokee Indians passed through the region on their way to California. For years afterwards the trail was known as the ''Cherokee Trail.'' Perhaps the most significant of the early day explorations was the Stansbury Expedition which camped at the Platte River Crossing in the fall of 1850 while enroute east from Fort Bridger.

Emigrants used the Overland Trail for years prior to the establishment of the Overland Stage Line. The desirable qualities of the Platte River Crossing made it a logical location for one of the Overland Stage Stations. The Crossing was approximately 30 miles west of Fort Halleck, a distance of about two days travel by wagon. Fourteen miles further west was Sage Creek Station, the scene of frequent Indian raids. This was considered one of the most dangerous sections of the Trail, but there is little indications that the Platte Crossing itself was ever subject to serious Indian depredations. Although mention is often made of the Crossing in diaries, journals and other writings, there is very little specific information concerning the physical aspects of the site.

The Platte River Crossing was generally good, but like other mountain rivers, it could be treacherous during periods of high water. With this in mind, Ed Bennett and Frank Earnest established a ferry which utilized cables made of buffalo hides anchored to huge piles of stone on either bank. The ferry operated some time after stages ceased to roll, and, until recent times, the stone piles used for anchors were still visible. The operation of the ferry resulted in the Crossing being referred to by some as Bennett's Ferry.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources