Walking West with Robert Campbell

Mile 1120- Red Buttes, Modern day Wyoming

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If Robert and his par­ty stuck to the north bank of the Plat­te riv­er to avoid climb­ing O’Fallon’s bluff they would have even­tu­al­ly need­ed to cross the riv­er. Dur­ing the 1820s and 1830s, the most pop­u­lar cross­ing for trav­el­ers head­ing toward Utah would have been Red Buttes, in mod­ern day Wyoming. The Plat­te riv­er was not an easy riv­er to cross, the spot where your par­ty attempt­ed to ford the riv­er had to be care­ful­ly select­ed. Lt. John C. Fré­mont of the U.S. Corps of Topo­graph­i­cal Engi­neers wrote:

“There was two hun­dred feet breadth of water at this time in the bed… which has a vari­able width of eight to fif­teen hun­dred feet. The chan­nels were gen­er­al­ly three feet deep, and there were large angu­lar rocks on the bot­tom, which made the ford in some places a lit­tle dif­fi­cult. Even at its low stages this riv­er can not be crossed at ran­dom, and this has always been used as the best ford.”

For west­ern trav­ellers, Red Buttes also offered good graz­ing land for their pack ani­mals, mak­ing it the ide­al spot to stop off before cross­ing the Plat­te. It was easy for trav­ellers to spot the high red hills that were vis­i­ble from the cross­ing point, which gave the area its name.