Between 1840 and 1869, approximately 500,000 emigrants traveled through the Casper area on three National Historic Trails: The Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and the California Trail. They migrated for different reasons: They sought free land in the Oregon Territory, religious freedom in the Great Salt Lake Valley, and free gold in California. These pioneers left behind not only trails, but important stories as well, stories that are significant to U.S. history.
The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center preserves and retells these stories through hands-on, interactive exhibits. The Trails Center also interprets the significance of a fourth national historic trail, the Pony Express Trail, which operated from April 1860 through October 1861.
Visitors at the Trails Center have the opportunity to:
See “Footsteps to the West”
The Trails Center recommends that visitors begin their journey with a 17-minute multi-media program. The program, entitled “Footsteps to the West,” combines light, sound, and images to re-create the lives of the pioneers as they traveled west. Many of the stories in this presentation were taken from the journals and diaries of pioneers.
Take a Wagon Ride
Crossing the North Platte River was often a perilous undertaking: The river was at times 300 yards across and four feet deep. Visitors feel the bumps and jolts of a wagon as they take a virtual wagon ride across the river.
Push a Hand Cart
Nearly 3,000 Mormon converts from Europe made their journey pushing and pulling hand carts. Visitors have the opportunity to push a virtual hand cart, and see if they have what it takes to make it over the Rocky Mountains.
Hear Their Story: The Martin Hand Cart Company Rescue
Hear a nine-minute dramatization of the Heber McBride family, who were part of the Martin Company that faced terrible perils during their journey in 1856. The words in this presentation were taken from first-person diary accounts.
Ride in a Stage Coach
Sit in a stage coach and experience the sights and sounds of passengers as they traveled west.
The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is a cooperative partnership between BLM, the National Historic Trails Center Foundation and the City of Casper. The Trails Center interprets the significant role of the area’s historic trails in the history of the United States, and seeks to promote public understanding of both America’s western Native cultures and historic westward expansion while highlighting BLM's role as active stewards of public lands.
History of the Center & Partnerships
The vision of a National Historic Trails Interpretive Center began more than a decade ago with the creation of a trails committee. This group became a private, non-profit entity called the National Historic Trails Center Foundation. In 1992 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) joined the endeavor, with a commitment to pursue $5 million of the $10 million estimated cost for the project. The City of Casper pledged 10 acres of land for the site of the Center. Together, these three entities formed a partnership which continues to this day. The vision for a Trails Center carried forth into the community, and in 1994, Casper voters passed the Optional One Cent Tax for funds to construct exhibits in the Center. Also that year, the Wyoming State Legislature passed a bill to help fund exhibits in the NHTIC. BLM began the architecture and engineering design process, and plans were completed by 1997.
That same year, Wyoming's Congressional Representative Barbara Cubin and Representative James Hansen of Utah co-sponsored a bill to fund the construction and operation of the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center through the Bureau of Land Management. The bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
A Cooperative Agreement between the BLM, the Trails Center Foundation, and the City of Casper was signed, detailing operation and maintenance costs of the facility as well as clarifying responsibilities of each of the three cooperating parties. That cooperative agreement remains in place. Official groundbreaking for the NHTIC occurred on June 21, 1999, coinciding with the arrival of wagon trains celebrating the sesquicentennial of the California National Historic Trail, one of six historic trails highlighted at the NHTIC.
The NHTIC is a positive example of public-private partnership. This cooperative endeavor began as a dream and became a reality when the facility opened August 9, 2002. The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center (NHTIC) developed under the cooperative eye of three primary partners - the Bureau of Land Management, the National Historic Trails Center Foundation, and the City of Casper. Many other individuals, organizations and businesses contributed to making the dream of a Trails Center in Casper a reality through donation of time, talent, vision, funds and materials.
Fall/Spring Hours (Sept. - April)
Open Tuesday - Saturday
9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Summer Hours (May - Aug.)
8:00 am - 5:00 pm