71. Bryant July 17-20, 1846

Edwin Bryant & Company spent several days camped near Fort Bridger.


July 17 - We determined to encamp here two or three days, for the purpose of recruiting our animals, which, being heavily packed, manifest strong signs of fatigue. We pitched our tent, for the first time since we left Fort Laramie, near the camp of Messrs. Hastings and Hudspeth. These gentlemen left the settlements of California the last of April, and travelling over the snows of the Sierra, and swimming the swollen water-courses on either side, reached this vicinity some two weeks since, having explored a new route, via the south end of the great Salt Lake, by which they suppose the distance to California is shortened from one hundred and fifty to two hundred miles. My impressions are unfavorable to the route, especially for wagons and families; but a number of the emigrant parties now encamped here have determined to adopt it, with Messrs. Hastings and Hudspeth as their guides; and are now waiting for some of the rear parties to come up and join them.


July 18 - We determined, this morning, to take the new route, via the south end of the great Salt Lake. Mr. Hudspeth—who with a small party, on Monday, will start in advance of the emigrant companies which intend travelling by this route, for the purpose of making some further explorations has volunteered to guide us as far as the Salt Plain, a day's journey west of the Lake. Although such was my own determination, I wrote several letters to my friends among the emigrant parties in the rear, advising them not to take this route, but to keep on the old trail, via Fort Hall. Our situation was different from theirs. We were mounted on mules, had no families, and could afford to hazard experiments, and make explorations. They could not. 

"Fort Bridger," as it is called, is a small trading-post, established and now occupied by Messrs. Bridger and Vasquez. The buildings are two or three miserable log-cabins, rudely constructed, and bearing but a faint resemblance to habitable houses. Its position is in a handsome and fertile bottom of the small stream on which we are encamped, about two miles south of the point where the old wagon trail, via Fort Hall, makes an angle, and takes a northwesterly course. The bottom produces the finest qualities of grass, and in great abundance. The water of the stream is cold and pure, and abounds in spotted mountain trout, and a variety of other small fish. Clumps of cottonwood trees are scattered through the valley, and along the banks of the stream. Fort Bridger is distant from the Pacific Spring, by our estimate, 133 miles. About five hundred Snake Indians were encamped near the trading-post this morning, but on hearing the news respecting the movements of the Sioux, which we communicated to them, most of them left immediately, for the purpose, I suppose, of organizing elsewhere a war-party to resist the threatened invasion. There are a number of traders here from the neighborhood of Taos, and the head-waters of the Arkansas, who have brought with them dressed buckskins, buckskin shirts, pantaloons, and moccasins, to trade with the emigrants. 


July 19 - Bill Smith, a noted mountain character, in a shooting-match burst his gun, and he was supposed for some time to be dead. He recovered, however, and the first words he uttered upon returning to consciousness were, that “no d—d gun could kill him." The adventures, hazards, and escapes of this man, with his eccentricities of character, as they were related to me, would make an amusing volume. 


July 20 - We resumed our march, taking, in accordance with our previous determination, the new route already referred to. Our party consisted of nine persons. Mr. Hudspeth and three young men from the emigrant parties, will accompany us as far as the Salt Plain. We ascended from the valley in which Fort Bridger is situated, on the left of a high and rather remarkable butte which overlooks the fertile bottom from the west. There is no trail, and we are guided in our course and route by the direction in which the Salt Lake is known to lie. The face of the upland country, after leaving Fort Bridger, although broken, presents a more cheerful aspect than the scenery we have been passing through for several days. The wild sage continues to be the principal growth, but we have marched over two or three smooth plains covered with good grass. The sides of the hills and mountains have also in many places presented a bright green herbage, and clumps of the aspen poplar frequently ornament the hollows near the bases of the hills.