June 29, 2017

As we walk onto the original grounds of the 1838 mountain man rendezvous, we spot a demonstration in tomahawk throwing through the trees. We begin to peruse the trail lined with canvas tents full of sundry mountain-man-era wares, and a BOOM rocks through the cottonwoods.

My husband’s ears perk up, and so do our dog’s, as she is welcome at the annual mountain man reenactment (on a leash) just outside Riverton. We stroll past wool blankets, rawhides, beadwork, an atlatl, and much more in the direction of the second boom. A group of children chatter away while they tackle the art-history lesson before them in the form of beads and leather.

As we approach the clearly marked shooting range, a handful of men and women in 1830s period attire take turns aiming classic, beautiful black-powder rifles at a course of targets downrange.


A cloud of gray-white smoke blossoms from a rifle, and the mountain man wielding it steps back to mark a hit or a miss. As we take in the scene, the competition organizer approaches and welcomes us.

True to the educational style of Riverton’s 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous, he immediately welcomes us in and launches into a seminar on caps, flint, bores, the field of targets before us, and the various calibers each competitor is shooting today—as well as what they would have shot at various times in history. His monologue is punctuated with the sound of rifles firing and subsequent celebrations or murmurs. Several competitors chime in on the lecture with their own perspectives and anecdotes.

After watching a while longer, we walk away reflecting on all we learned and the friendly folks who imparted the knowledge. We take in a bit more of the scene, and I find myself surprised and impressed at how true the re-enactors are to authenticity. Only one cell phone, one reference to SpongeBob SquarePants, and one pair of contemporary sunglasses give the year 2017 away as we stroll back through time to our car, complete with smart phones, air conditioning, and vintage sunglasses.

Directions:  From South Federal Blvd in Riverton turn East on E. Monroe Ave for 1 mile to Smith Road.  Follow the signs to the buck and rail fence and a wooded area.
The 1838 Rendezvous grounds in Riverton, Wyoming look much like they did in 1838.  This is the only site of an original trapper’s rendezvous not developed by man.

Photo: Wind River Country/Brad Christensen
Posted in Notes From the Field