Sunday, August 18, 2013

South Pass City

The first leg of our trip from West Yellowstone to Denver took us east into Yellowstone, then south down to and across the north side of the Grand Tetons park and out the entrance at Moran Junction. From this point to Dubois was a pretty, mountainous drive including a climb over Togwotee Pass at 9,658 feet. East of Dubois into the Wind River Indian Reservation was very pretty with red rock canyons much like you see in northern Arizona. From around Crowheart down to Lander was a dry, desolate, open land of rolling hills with mountains in the distance. We stayed at a campground on the edge of Lander so that we could see some sights in the area the next day.  One more note, we made 4 Continental Divide crossings on this one day which is a record for us.

Carissa Mine
The next day's site seeing started with us heading south from Lander to South Pass City, passing through Atlantic City on the way. These were gold rush towns of the 1860s. Atlantic City isn't set up to tour buildings or sites so we didn't stop. There are still a few people that live in each of these tiny towns. 
South Pass City street - west to east
We got lucky at South Pass City and arrived right when they were opening the first tours of the restored Carissa Mine and Mill. This mine was the reason that South Pass City existed. They have pretty much rebuilt the buildings to replicate what was here during the boom days.

South Pass City from east to west
After touring the mine and mill we headed into town where they have about 20 restored buildings and a lot of empty lots with signs indicating what establishment used to be there. Most of the buildings had fallen into disrepair but have been restored to very good replications of what they were. 
Home and office of First Woman
Justice in the world!
The most impressive building, which looked like someone must have been keeping it maintained, was the South Pass Hotel and Restaurant. You are allowed to walk all throughout the building on the old, squeaky, uneven, plank floors and look in all the rooms which have period furniture and other artifacts. The actual front desk and kitchen were really neat. The next best one is the Saloon and card room in the next building.  The saloon bar and furnishings look exactly like a photograph that they have for you to look at and compare.  Link to the South Pass City website:

Sacajawea headstone center, left
memorial to her son Baptiste (Pomp),
right adopted son Brazil
We next headed back to Lander for a quick lunch at home and then back tracked a few miles of the previous day's trip to Fort Washakie on the Indian Reservation. The attraction here is the Sacajawea Cemetery.  There is much mystery and conflicting beliefs on what became of Sacajawea after the completion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Shoshone (her native tribe) belief based on their oral history is that she eventually came to Fort Washakie, because that is where her adopted son was living, and that is where she died in 1884. She supposedly helped translate and negotiate the founding of this reservation.

Statue of Sacajawea on shore of Pacific
Ocean holding a Sand Dollar which she
brought with her and gave to Chief Washakie

Shoshone Indian Cemetery - it is so
colorful with flowers (plastic),
painted crosses, etc
Informational plaques in the cemetery don't even agree on whether she is actually buried in the cemetery or if she was buried up in the Wind River mountains off in the distance. The hardest thing for me to believe about this version of the story is if she really died in 1884 she would have been 95 years old based on the Lewis and Clark Expedition writings indicating she was 16 in 1805.  It doesn't really matter, it is still fun stuff. One thing that is consistently stated is this was her homeland, so that is cool enough for a visit.

If you're interested in the Sacajawea controversy, here is an interesting link I just found:

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