Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Photograph of Jim Bridger, American Heritage Center-William Henry Jackson scbl#160 Photograph of Jim Bridger, American Heritage Center-William Henry Jackson scbl#160
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"Unquestionably Bridger's claims to remembrance rest upon the extraordinary part he  Artist rendition of what Jim Bridger may have looked like as a young man. Drawing by C.M. Ismert, Refer to Acknowledgements #1bore in the explorations of the West. As a guide he was without equal, and this is the testimony of everyone who ever knew him. He was a born topographer; the whole West was mapped out in his mind, and such was his instinctive sense of locality and direction that it used to be said of him that he could smell his way where he could not see it. He was a complete master of plains and woodcraft, equal to any emergency, full of resources to overcome any obstacles, and I came to learn gradually how it was that for months such men could live without food except what the country afforded in that wild region. . . . Bridger was not an educated man, still any country that he had ever seen he could fully and intelligently describe, and he could make a very correct estimate of the country surrounding it. He could make a map of any country he had ever traveled over, mark out its streams and mountains and the obstacles in it correctly, so that there was no trouble in following it and fully understanding it. . . . He understood thoroughly the Indian character, their peculiarities and superstitions. . . . As a guide I do not think he had his equal upon the plains."Bridgers Trail 1864 -Painting by L.D. Edgar, Refer to Acknowledgements #3
--- Grenville Dodge
Biographical Sketch of James Bridger
American Heritage Center
Refer to Acknowledgements #2


A short biography of Jim Bridger supports the quotation by General Dodge and reveals that Bridger had few if any equals to his achievements as mountain man, guide, and entrepreneur.

Bridger had over thirty years experience in the West as a trapper, mountain man, and Indian fighter before he became the premier guide for the United States Army in the mid-1850s. He had traveled extensively in the Rocky Mountain West with General William Ashley first as an employee and later as a partner in the famous Rocky Portion of a Map (Bighorn Mtns. area) originally made by Bridger for W.M. Collins. First drawn in the earth with a stick- then in detail on the skin of an animal with charcoal. Bridger then gave it to W.M. Collins who made this map. (AHC) Refer to Acknowledgements#2Mountain Fur Company. He mastered wilderness lore and accumulated an astounding mental map of western North America before there were any territories west of the Mississippi River. It was this geographical knowledge that aided many U. S. Army Topographical expeditions in the successful completion of their assignments. Bridger provided from memory accurate maps of the Rocky Mountains to U. S. military commanders leading exploratory expeditions. He possessed an intimate knowledge of western geography and natural transportation routes. He was also familiar with native inhabitants, especially the Shoshoni. He was a personal friend of Chief Washakie of the Shoshoni, and was married three times to native women: a Flathead, a Ute, and Shoshoni. As a result of his cumulative experience, Bridger played an integral role in the initial geographical discoveries in the West, which, in turn, helped foster early Euro-American emigration and settlement.

Bridger's experience knew no bounds. He quit the dying fur trade in 1842, and in 1843 with his partner Louis Vasquez, established a trading post along the Blacks Fork of the Green River in what is now Wyoming (it was the Territory of Mexico at the time). Bridger recognized that the overland migration to Oregon was a sign of changing settlement patterns, and the construction of Fort Bridger could not help but become a profitable economic concern. For the next fifteen years, the post was a key supply point for Oregon-Mormon-California Trail emigrants needing provisions, livestock, and wagon repairs.

The Stansbury expedition to the Great Salt Lake in 1849-1850 was the first federally funded government exploration guided by Bridger. It was designed to acquire geographical and geological data about the West that would facilitate a future route for a transcontinental railroad and telegraph and identify the location of coal deposits. On the return, Bridger guided Stansbury's party east along a route that would later become familiar as the Overland Stage and Union Pacific Railroad routes.

Bridger's unequaled knowledge of the northern Rocky Mountain region and upper Portrait of Jim Bridger,(AHC), Refer to Acknowledgements#2Missouri River Basin aided two expeditions searching for transportation routes between 1856 and 1860. He served as guide for Lt. Warren's 1856 expedition to reconnoiter the regions surrounding the Black Hills and the Yellowstone River. He led Warren's party from Fort Union, at the mouth of the Yellowstone on the Missouri River, up the Yellowstone to the mouth of Powder River. Warren's explorations revealed what geographical information was still lacking. In his reports on the Dakota region, Warren recommended further reconnaissance of the upper Yellowstone and Powder River country, regions that were still classified as terra incognita.

As a result, Captain William Raynolds was ordered to explore the region in 1859. Jim Bridger was the logical choice to guide this important expedition. When the Army resumed operations against the Sioux after the Civil War, the Warren and Raynolds' reports formed the only existing body of information pertaining to the Dakota-Wyoming region.

Whenever the mission was important, the government's choice was invariably the same: Jim Bridger. Among other expeditions, he spent part of the year 1857 guiding Colonel Albert S. Johnson who was sent to escort the new federal governor and restore the presence of the U.S. government in Utah Territory during the Utah (Mormon) War. He served in 1861 as guide for an exploratory party under the command of Captain E. L. Berthoud for a road through the Colorado Rockies, and he served under Colonel Collins and his son Lt. Caspar Collins in the early 1860s as well.

Bridger had achieved the rank of Major and was the chief guide (at $10 a day) assigned to Fort Laramie throughout the remainder of the 1860s until his retirement late in 1868. However, he spent the 1864 season guiding emigrant trains to Montana, after obtaining a leave of absence from the fort on April 30. On May 20, he guided the first train of emigrants along the Bridger Trail to the Montana gold fields near Virginia City. He led a second party along the trail in the fall.

Sioux opposition to emigration and military activity along the Bozeman Trail intensified in 1865 and Bridger's services as guide were needed more than ever. He guided the lead column of the Powder River Expedition, under the command of General Patrick E. Connor, who was ordered into the Powder River Basin to find and punish the Sioux and their allies. The campaign failed in its attempt to curtail Indian aggression along the Bozeman Trail.

Bridger served his last commission in 1868 following the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty, which closed the Bozeman Trail and the forts built in vain to defend it. He guided the Army to the Powder River Basin to remove the property from the forts. When he returned, he was paid and discharged from the Army at Fort D.A. Russell. He retired to his farm in Westport, near Kansas City, Missouri, and died on July 17, 1881 at the age of 77.

In 1904, on the 100th anniversary of Bridger's birth, General Grenville Dodge had Jim Bridger Gravesite, Photo by James LoweBridger reinterred at a select spot in the Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence, Missouri, with a 7-foot monument depicting Bridger's principal achievements.

"Celebrated as a hunter, trapper, fur trader and guide. Discovered Great Salt Lake 1824, the South Pass 1827 [1823]. Visited Yellowstone Lake and Geysers 1830. Founded Fort Bridger 1843. Opened Overland Route by Bridger's Pass to Great Salt Lake. Was a guide for U. S. exploring expeditions, Albert Sidney Johnston's army in 1857, and G. M. Dodge in U. P. surveys and Indian campaigns 1865-66."

Animated .Gif, Horse and Wagon

Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Map drawn by William Atchison, refer to Acknowledgements #35 Photograph of Jim Bridger,and William Henry Jackson painting scbl#160, refer to acknowledgements #35
Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35