Mile 753: Fort Laramie Ferry

“Robert Campbell [who built the original fort that became Fort Laramie] had cannily built his picketed stockade in the angle of the two rivers [Laramie and North Platte], so that all who approached from the east must either ford the Laramie or ferry the North Platte. Both projects provided plenty of exercise and some risk. Thos companies who had attained the west bank of the Missouri River at Independence, St. Joseph, Nebraska City, or nearby ferries, and who consequently traveled south of the Platte must now ford the Laramie. And the Laramie was deep, swift-flowing, and ice-cold. Those who ferried the Missouri at Kanesville or Council Bluffs, and remained north of the Platte were now faced with the thankless job of ferrying to the south side only to cross back again just west of the Black Hills, where the river swung too far south for their purpose, and the road left it definitely and forever. The did so up to and including the year 1849. . . .

There was no necessity, as it later proved, for any man to risk (and sometimes lose) his life in ferrying the Platte at Fort Laramie: there was an easy route on the north side. The officers [at Fort Laramie] were suspected of giving out misleading information to induce the emigrants to cross—at first, on account of the profit they could make from selling supplies at exhorbitant prices, and later because they ran a government ferry at five dollars per wagon and had unlimited opportunity to line their pockets.”