Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fort Laramie National Historic Site

  Fort Laramie got it’s in start in 1834 as a fur trading post, dealing mainly in buffalo hides that the Indians brought to trade for manufactured goods. In 1849, as travelers along the Oregon Trail increased, the post was bought by the US Army who used it until 1890. The emigrants along the trail eagerly awaited their arrival at the fort because it gave them a chance to buy supplies and the pastures had plenty of room for their draft animals to graze and rest.

  The site consists of a visitor center, 11 restored buildings, 9 ruins or foundations, and walking paths with interpretive signs. All of the buildings and ruins on the grounds are from the time the Army occupied the fort.


   A paved path leads from the parking lot to the visitor center. The center is accessible but the entry door is very heavy. The walking paths are either gravel surfaced or across the grass so pushing is difficult. Several of the buildings have ramps at the rear entrances but do not have hard surfaced paths to access them. The rooms are partitioned off at the doorways with plexiglass so it may be hard to see the contents due to glare.

The parking lot has long RV spaces

  We spent the night in the little city park in the town of Fort Laramie. It’s a nice park with picnic tables, restrooms, water and a dumpster but very close to the train tracks and a crossing.

Fort   42.20427, -104.55868   Park   42.21076, -104.51904


Friday, September 23, 2016

National Historic Trails Interpretive Center

   Oregon Trail wagons, Mormons on their way to Utah, 49ers on route to California and Pony Express riders all had to cross the Platte River near the Interpretive Center. These groups of travelers had been following the same trails since starting from the cities of Independence and St. Joseph in Missouri but now as they left the river each group would soon strike out on different routes.

  The interpretive center has very good exhibits with information about all of the groups of travelers with an emphasis on the trails through Wyoming.

  The museum is accessible but some of the hands-on exhibits are not. The simulated river crossing wagon has a slight lip at the entrance.

  The parking lot is large enough for RVs.

Center   42.86694, -106.33667


Hell's Half Acre

   We stopped here in 1993 on our way to Yellowstone when we started fulltiming. A picnic area, gift shop, restaurant and deck overlooking the ravine, which has been carved out by water and wind, made it a nice place to take a break. The gift shop and restaurant are long gone, leaving a dusty, pot holed parking area, locked picnic grounds and a view blocked by chain link fencing. A quick stop is sufficient.


Hell's Half Acre    43.04681, -107.0927


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hot Springs State Park

  Thermopolis is a mini Yellowstone with a hot spring that pumps out more than 8,000 gallons of water a day which eventually flows over terraces and into the Bighorn River. A square mile of the town is state park - an unusual state park because it encompasses hotels, a hospital and waterparks. The park is free to visit and features paved walking trails, boardwalks and flower gardens. There’s even a free state bath house with a pool of 104 degree water.

  The trails and boardwalks are accessible. We didn’t visit the bath house but it’s supposed to be accessible.

  RVs can be parked in the large parking lot or on the streets.

Park   43.65182, -108.19854


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Buffalo Bill Historical Center

   Cody, Wyoming was founded in the late 1800s by William Cody and a group of businessmen from Sheridan, Wyoming.  Cody, who was impressed by the fertile soil and hunting and fishing opportunities, established a cattle ranch along the Sheridan River and a dude ranch which he operated from his house. He also built a hotel in town to accommodate travelers on their way to Yellowstone National Park. In 1927, ten years after his death, the Buffalo Bill Museum was opened in Cody. 

   The museum, now known as the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, is excellent. It has five galleries - Buffalo Bill, Plains Indians, Natural History, Art, and Firearms. Admission is expensive but it’s good for entry on two consecutive days.

  The Buffalo Bill gallery, which includes many personal artifacts, gives visitors an in-depth look at Cody’s adventuresome life. At eleven years old, to help support the family after his father died, he got a job delivering messages on horseback for a freighting company. By the time he was 25 he’d worked as a Pony Express rider, a teamster in the Union army, a US army scout and a bison hunter for the army and railroad. Drawing on his experiences he started acting with a “wild west” touring troupe which lead to the formation of his famous  “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show.

  The Plains Indian gallery has beautiful exhibits and covers the lifestyle of the Plains Indians before and after they acquired horses but falls short when covering the history of the invasion of their homeland, subsequent wars and banishment to reservations.


   The art gallery, which is fairly small, has a nice collection of western art from the early nineteenth century through contemporary times.

  We weren’t interested in the firearms and didn’t have time to see the natural history gallery.

   Everything is accessible.

   Follow the signs to the RV parking lot.

 Museum     44.52348, -109.07377


Tuesday, September 20, 2016


  Yellowstone is my favorite National Park. It’s an amazing place of strangely beautiful geysers, mud pots and travertine formations; canyons and waterfalls created by a pristine river; and  animals that freely roam over  2 million acres of park. Even more amazing is that most of the park is inside a 40 mile wide caldera with a huge expanse of magna laying just 3 to 9 miles below the surface of the earth. At least a dozen large eruptions have occurred over the past 18 million years, spewing ash and lava, creating and changing the landscape in the western states.

   We thought that we would miss some of the crowds by visiting the park in September. We were wrong. :-D The last time we visited the park was 10 years ago and things have changed. There are more people and many of them are camping. Five campgrounds that are managed by Xantera do not have any first come/first serve sites. The other seven campgrounds are managed by the park and the only way to get a site is to arrive early in the morning and wait in line until someone checks out. On previous visited we could go from campground to campground, seeing the sights along the way, and still find a campsite at the end of the day.

   We spent five days in the park and camped for one night at Bakers Hole, a national forest campground, located outside the park and north of West Yellowstone, the next night inside the park at Madison after someone canceled their reservation, two nights at Norris after waiting in line and one night at Mammoth by waiting in line again. The situation was made even worse because four campgrounds, two managed by Xantera and two managed by the park, were already closed for the season. Anyone with a large RV should make reservations early or plan on staying outside the park.

  Five days is not enough time to see the park but we still had a great visit. The boardwalks and paved trails which protect both the fragile features and the visitors from harm, make the major sights of the park fairly wheelchair accessible. It’s only a coincidental accessibility though so there are sections of boardwalk that are too steep or have steps and paved paths with large ruts. Backtracking and assistance is often necessary. The park has a good online accessibility guide and a paper guide is available at the visitor centers.


  Another change since our last visit is that most of the one-way, short loop roads are now closed to all motorhome traffic. There are still many things to see along the main roads and most of the parking lots have long spaces for RVs. These lots can fill quickly and it can be very difficult to find a space for a RV over 30’. Visitors with large RVs should stay outside the park and use their towed vehicle to sightsee.



Park   West Entrance- 44.65702, -111.09015


Quake Lake Visitor Center

  The area around Yellowstone National Park is known for seismic activity but no one was prepared for the earthquake on August 17, 1959 that triggered a massive landslide, buried part of a campground and created a new lake. 28 people died, some as a result of injuries from the landslide, some were swept away by the water and some were buried under tons of rock. The Air Force and Forest Service used helicopters to rescue hundreds of people who were trapped in the canyon by the landslide and damaged roads.

  The visitor center, which overlooks the landslide and the lake, tells the stories of the victims and survivors of this tragic event. There are also interpretive displays on earthquakes and plate tectonics plus a short video.

   The visitor center is accessible.

   The parking lot has bus/RV parking spaces.

Visitor Center    44.83098, -111.42599


Ennis FAS Campground

   The sites in this campground are somewhat rough with potholes in the dirt parking areas.  About half of the sites have a view of the river which is spoiled a bit by development on the opposite shore. The site we chose had a great view – no houses in sight. Large RVs will fit in a few of the sites. Amenities include tables, fire rings and vault toilets. None of the sites are designated as accessible.

   If we’re in this area again we’ll check out the BLM campgrounds north and south of Ennis which have a cheaper fee and may be maintained better.


            Campground     45.34563, -111.7234


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Nevada City and Virginia City

   The former gold mining towns of Nevada City and Virginia City, which are less than 2 miles apart, are both state parks established to preserve a piece of the 1860s. Both towns were saved  by Charles and Sue Bovey who began buying old buildings in the 1940s. The similarity ends there, however, because Nevada City is comprised of buildings relocated from other sites and placed on the empty streets of Nevada City to form a town. Only 12 of the more than 40 buildings are original to the town. On the other hand, the buildings in Virginia City are almost all original to the town.

  The buildings in Nevada City are part of a museum that has an admission fee.  We visited too late in the season and the museum was closed so the most we could do was peek in through the fence.


The parking lot is large enough for any RV.

Virginia City is considered an open air museum. The buildings have interpretive signs and many, which are owned by the state, are filled with artifacts. They’re not opened completely but visitors can view the interior displays from the entry ways.

  The town is semi-accessible. The boardwalks are elevated above the street but there are spots where they can be accessed. Some of the building entrances are level with the boardwalk. Others have a step or two.

  RV parking is located at the west end of town. It’s a bit of an uphill trek to the main part of town.

Nevada City  45.30718, -111.96807   Virginia City   45.29333, -111.95047