Mile 890: Deer Creek Ferry

“From the time that the wagons left the Black Hills behind until they had either crossed the North Platte or had been bested in the attempt, the emigration was really functioning on all sixteen cylinders. Progress was faster, and the sure-footed oxen were urged to more miles per bushel as the wagon masters speeded up for the ferries.

They encountered the first doddering specimen near Deer Creek [present-day Glenrock] . . . It was a poor affair, too small for its burdens, creaking and rheumatic. It staggered painfully across troubled waters broken out in an eczema of froth and foam, but the travelers were incomprehensibly optimistic. They either inserted themselves, complete with vehicles, into the confines of the river, or dared the dirty gray flood in their own, just calked wagon. . . .

“C.A. Kirkpatrick arrived at the mouth of Deer Creek in June of ’49 and was horrified at the setup. ‘Already within our hearing today,’ he wrote, ‘twelve men have found a watery grave while crossing with their stock and effects; and yet this makes no impression on the survivors. . . .

It was a commonly accepted premise among the emigrants that the well-to-do trains ignored the Deer Creek ferry and, trekking two more days upstream, crossed at the Mormon or Upper Ferry. Sometimes large and efficient companies built their own rafts, afterward leaving them behind for general use; and yet, at the peak of the traffic, wagons poured so fast along the overlnd road that there was a complete stoppage of two or three days at any ferry with a hundred or so wagons and their attendant stock around each landing place. No wonder, with the grass gone and a score of dead cattle lying here and there to greet the newcomers, that worried captains took a chance on ferrying in their wagon beds.”