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Reliving the 1870s at old Fort Laramie.

An oasis of civilization along the Oregon Trail: that was what Fort Laramie, in southeastern Wyoming, represented to 19th-century pioneers. Reaching the fort was a landmark on the journey West-it meant you had survived the long plains crossing. It also meant a chance to rest and get provisions and fresh draft animals (albeit often at outlandish prices) before taking on the Rockies. Now a national historic site, Fort Laramie offers free fort tours and lectures daily all summer and, this month, free 1870s Fourth of July events. The fort is about I I 0 miles northeast of Cheyenne; you could combine a tour here with a visit to Cheyenne's Frontier Days rodeo (July 19 through 28). History brought to life on the prairie When the Park Service acquired the 836acre site and fort buildings in the 30s, some structures were dilapidated, others in ruins. Thirteen have been restored, the latest being the cavalry barracks; they've just been refurbished to their 1874 looks. It's easy to relive history at Fort Laramie no modern intrusions mar the prairie skyline. And from 9:30 to 5 daily in summer, costumed volunteers and staff play roles from the fort's past. You can chat with the "overworked laundress" as she stirs a boiling pot of clothes and lye soap (her historic counterpart did the daily washing for 300 soldiers). Or watch the "overheated baker" at work (his task-produce 500 loaves daily in an oven-hot building). You might visit with a mountain man, cavalryman, or sutler. The general store displays replicas of items settlers bought here between 1834 and 1890. It's a fort without walls, partially protected by being tucked into a crook of the Laramie River. Don't miss the lieutenant colonel's 12-room mansard-roofed house, restored to its 1888 peak; or the balconied white Old Bedlam (so named because it housed the officers), appointed as it was in 1849. The visitor center has a good slide show orientation, shown hourly, and a fine bookstore more than 300 titles on Wyoming history and westward expansion. In summer, free fort tours depart from the barracks at 10:30 and 3:30; history talks are given at 10, 11:30, 2, and 3 (check visitor center for locations). On July 4 from 9:30 to 3, you can listen to champion fiddle or banjo players, watch a wagon train reenactment, or compete in children's games popular a century ago three-legged race, sack race, greased pole climb. The park is open 7 to dusk daily in summer (shorter hours rest of year); admission is $1 ages 16 and over. From Cheyenne, take Interstate 25 north 82 miles to US. 26 and head east 28 miles to the town of Fort Laramie, then 3 miles southwest on State 160 to the historic site.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Wyoming
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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