Fort Laramie

The first Fort Laramie (named Fort William at the time) as it looked prior to 1840. Painting from memory by Alfred Jacob Miller.

Originally established as a private fur trading fort in 1834, Fort Laramie evolved into the largest and best known military post on the Northern Plains before its abandonment in 1890. This “grand old post” witnessed the entire sweeping saga of America’s western expansion alongside Native American resistance to encroachment on their territories.

The popular view of a western fort, perhaps generated by Hollywood movies, is that of an enclosure surrounded by a wall or stockade. Fort Laramie, however, was never enclosed by a wall. Initial plans for the fort included a wooden fence or a thick structure of rubble, 9 feet high, that enclosed an area 550 x 650 feet. Because of the high costs involved, however, the wall was never built. Fort Laramie was always an open fort that depended upon its location and its garrison of troops for security.

In 1841, it was purchased by the American Fur Company and renamed Fort John. In 1849, it was purchased by the United State Army for the purpose of protecting the many wagon trains of migrant travelers on the Oregon Trail.

Today, the Fort Laramie National Historic Site is open year round for visitors.