McKinstry Ridge is
a segment of the Child's Cutoff located a few miles north of
Douglas, Wyoming. Here the trail crosses a high, rocky ridge several
hundred feet above the North Platte River. The route was described by
diarists who came this way, but most notably by Byron McKinstry, a member
the 1850 emigrant company that called itself the Upper Mississippi Ox
Company. The ridge was named in his honor, but also for his grandson Bruce
McKinstry who edited the published version of Byron's diary.
was a school teacher from McHenry County, Illinois. Andrew
Child of Waukesha, Wisconsin, was also a member of the Upper Mississippi
Company. Child's guidebook, published in Milwaukee in 1852, is why the
route west of Fort Laramie on the north side of the river is sometimes
called Child's Cutoff. It was the first published guide to describe the
On June 26,
1850, McKinstry wrote: "Following a kind of divide first rising
in a Northerly direction to the summit, then turning s.w. and descending
the Platte - the crookedest road possible. These hills have a wild savage
appearance, but little vegetation on them." The next day he described
ridge in more detail:" Soon after we began to descend from the summit
passed some rock pillars as nearly round as possible, from 30 to 40 feet
length and 18 or 20 inches in diameter. There were 6 or 8 of these within
few rods, most of them broken into sections from 8 to 10 ft. long. They
were of hard greyish or bluish rock, perhaps limestone and looked as if
had been turned. Some supposed them to be petrified wood - if so they
have been very straight smooth trees or else they were rounded previous
These strange fallen
rock pillars can still be seen littering the summit
of McKinstry Ridge.
Private. Permission must be obtained from the landowner [Bridget Paich,
201 Combs Road, Douglas, WY 82633. (307)358-2649] to visit this site.
In addition, permission must be obtained from an adjacent landowner [Bob
Hageman, 280 Highway 59, Douglas, WY 82633. (307) 358-3850] to cross his
land to reach the ridge. Access is by 4WD only.
Converse County, Wyoming. T33N, R71W
Leave Douglas on Wyoming 59. About 1 mile north, turn left on Airport
Road. In .7 mile, turn right on gravel road. Continue 1.3 miles to a windmill
and gate. Proceed through the gate, leaving it in the condition you found
it. Continue straight for .6 mile to the trail crossing left to right.
Deep ruts are visible here. Follow the road, which turns north, for .6
mile to a sharp left turn. This brings you to a second gate. Pass through
it, again leaving it as you found it (open or closed). Immediately turn
right up a hill along a fence line. This is the beginning of McKinstry
Ridge. The OCTA marker is approximately 1.4 miles down the ridge. You
can continue past the gate for about ½ mile, then turn left and follow
a ranch road and the trail about 2 miles until you reach the river. From
there, it is about 1¾ miles to a fence and gate. Pass through the gate,
go left around a corn field and continue about 3 miles to Ross Road (paved).
Turn left to return to Douglas.
National Park Service
Comprehensive Management Plan
The ridge has been marked with an interpretative sign by the Oregon-California
Trails Association. No known threats. The site is not listed on the National