Jim Bridger might rest in peace in Independence, Missouri, but you can still experience the wild and woolly mountain man era at this lively rendezvous at his old Wyoming stomping grounds.
Every Labor Day weekend, tens of thousands flock to the activities at Fort Bridger Rendezvous to celebrate the fur trade era. At the national historic site in southwestern Wyoming where Bridger’s original trading post once stood, re-enactors from across the nation converge for a living-history commemoration of the annual mountain man rendezvous first organized by Gen. William Ashley, which took place from 1825 to 1840.
There are participants in period regalia — be they mountain man, Indian, soldier, pioneer woman, or frontier child — and vendors sell wares that are authentic pre-1840 replicas. “If something’s made of beads, it’s got to be true glass beads that a mountain man would have used or traded for,” says Mike Larsen, who serves on the Fort Bridger Rendezvous board of directors. “If it’s leather or cloth, it must be handmade like mountain men or Indians would have made and worn at the time.”
Events include shooting contests with period weapons, tomahawk throwing, knife throwing, and primitive archery. There are storytelling contests and a frying pan toss. Visitors can learn about a trapper’s or trader’s life on the frontier with workshops and demonstrations on everything from blacksmithing and cooking to music-making and Native American dancing. On Sunday, the rendezvous puts on one of the largest cannon shoots in the country.
Period dress is required for campers in the primitive camp, for traders, and for anyone wishing to participate in the various contests, but onlookers and casual visitors are more than welcome in modern attire. Whether you’re in buckskin or polyester, it’s a great way to learn about life on the raw frontier and experience a taste of Jim Bridger’s world.