Wyoming’s plains are the historical home to many nomadic tribes including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Shoshone and Sioux. Today, about 6,000 Shoshone and Arapaho continue to reside on the 2.3 million acre Wind River Reservation, northwest of Natrona County.
In 1812, John Jacob Astor established Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia and sent Robert Stuart east to start what was hoped to become a network of trading posts. Stuart found South Pass by following a Crow Indian trail and entered our region. Near Bessemer Bend, Stuart and his small band erected the first white man’s hut in 1812. Although Astor’s plans failed when the British captured Astoria in 1812, trappers and scouts continued to explore our high plains and develop transit routes. On July 4, 1824, some of these trappers named Independence Rock.
In 1840, Father Jean Pierre DeSmet began spreading the gospel among area Indians. Father DeSmet was the first to carve his name on Independence Rock and give it the name, “The Register of the Desert.” In 1843, John C. Fremont (known as “The Pathfinder”) chiseled his name on Independence Rock and later with Kit Carson as his guide, went on to explore the country along the Platte and Sweetwater Rivers.