The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is a free museum, located in Casper, Wyoming. It is dedicated to educating visitors on the trials faced by those traveling the Oregon Trail, during the Westward Migration. Touring the exhibits will allow visitors to immerse themselves into the 1800s. For us, it was a chance to experience the trail life that so many traveled in pursuit of a better life.
Lay of the Land
The museum is filled with life-size dioramas showcasing various life events, that would have been experienced by travelers. Life was hard, and the displays help relate this to visitors. A multi-media presentation plays across the walls, with plentiful seating on platforms stationed throughout the museum. Here we heard the stories of pioneers. It gave us a better understanding of the reasons that so many people chose to face the overwhelming dangers. After all, they were seeking a new life in the west.
As we explored the exhibits, we were reminded of the sacrifices made by many. Dangers along the Oregon Trail were numerous. Each day would require breaking camp and moving 15 to 20 miles down the trail. Here they would be required to make camp again. This process was repeated over and over again. The journey, if successful, would take four to five months to complete. It is estimated that nearly a half-million people traveled the Oregon Trail.
While many of the displays are static, there are some interactive exhibits. A handcart display shows visitors the amount of strength needed to move possessions across the trail. After attempting it, we realized there was a reason that so many personal effects would be scattered along the way. Lightening the load would become more important as you made your way into the mountains. At another station, visitors can sit in a covered wagon, as a media presentation shows the excitement of a river crossing. This exhibit is especially entertaining for kids and we found a similar display in Montpelier, Idaho.
Forward in Time
We also had an opportunity to climb aboard a stagecoach. Sitting there, we could imagine the long hours inside this bumpy carriage, as we traveled from one point to another. Of course, the stagecoach lines would come along later. For those traveling through the region, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center should be a must stop. It is a great break from the road, and offers an educational view of life before electronics. By the time your visit is complete, you will have lots of fuel for conversations on the open road. You will also gain a greater respect for the hardships our ancestors experienced.