Eventually, almost all of the emigrants had to cross the North Platte River. Only those who started in Council Bluffs and stayed on the north side of the river could escape this relatively arduous undertaking. As the trails matured, the options for crossing the river increased and changed.
Until 1846, most emigrants
used an old fur trappers’ ford over the river southwest of what is now
Casper in the area of Red Buttes . In
1847, the Mormons established a ferry about eight miles
downstream from the old ford. The ferry consisted of two large cottonwood
canoes fastened by cross pieces and covered with slabs. It was operated
by oars and Brigham Young left nine men here to operate it. In 1848, they
constructed a second ferry in approximately the same location. In 1849
they moved about 4 miles downriver.The ferry operated until 1852, charging
between $1.50 and $5 for passage, depending on the conditions of the river.
Louis Guinard constructed a bridge at the site of the Mormon Ferry in 1859, with the first migration crossing in 1860. This bridge was nearly one thousand feet long and seventeen feet wide. It was supported by 28 stone-filled cribs and cost nearly $40,000 to build. It competed with Reshaw’s Second Bridge for the remainder of the emigration, charging between $1 and $6 depending on river conditions. The site, originally known as Mormon Ferry , became Platte Bridge Station and then Fort Caspar. Abandoned in 1867, "all salvagable material" was used to build Fort Fetterman.
National Park Service
Comprehensive Management Plan
There are no known threats. Fort Caspar is listed on the National Register.
Fort Caspar is located on SR 258 on the west side of Casper in the town of Mills. Signs direct travelers to the site.
William H. Jackson wrote of Guinard’s Bridge: "We crossed at once over the very finest...bridge yet encountered, a sturdy and workmanlike structure of logs."