Never an official U.S. Military outpost; instead, Fort Bonneville, Wyoming, was a fur trading post built by Captain Benjamin Bonneville in 1832.
Taking an extended leave of absence from the Army, Bonneville wanted to explore the Rocky Mountains, was interested in the fur trading business, and wanted to report back to the government on his findings, including the character and customs of the Native American Indian tribes. Financed by John Jacob Astor of the American Fur Company, Captain Bonneville and Joseph Rutherford Walker headed west in May 1832 with an expedition that included 110 men, about 20 wagons, and an assortment of mules, horses, and cattle. They departed from Fort Osage, Missouri, traveled up to the Platte River, and crossed present-day Wyoming following the tracks of the fur traders. They were the first to take wheeled vehicles across South Pass and the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains.
They reached the Green River in August. Apprehensive about the presence of hostile Blackfoot Indians in the vicinity, he directed his men to construct a fortified winter camp on the right bank of the Green River. The stockaded structure was primarily designed for protection, but Bonneville probably intended this fort to become a fur trading post.
However, Joseph Walker objected to building the fort and soon left the site to locate a group of free trappers in the area. Walker soon returned with several trappers who informed Bonneville of the severe winters in the Green River Valley and advised him that the Salmon River area had milder winters and was a better trapping country than the Green River Valley. Bonneville was immediately convinced, but when nature intervened, bringing early and heavy snowfalls, he and his men abandoned the post and moved to the southwest, where they spent the remainder of the year.
The considerable amount of labor expended in constructing Fort Bonneville, followed by its almost immediate abandonment, led many to refer to it as “Fort Nonsense” or “Bonneville’s Folly.” It was described as a 100-foot square stockade with two blockhouses in diagonal corners or little more than a cluster of small simple log huts.
In 1835, it was the site of “The Green River Rendezvous” and was used by fur traders until 1839.
Though Bonneville’s post was of little lasting significance, it was the first of its kind in the region and heralded the coming of the fixed trading post concept in the fur trade.
Today, there are no signs of the fort, except a boulder placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution and a Wyoming Historical Marker. The site is located approximately three miles northwest of Daniel, Wyoming.
The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.
The Fur Trapper
Wyoming State History Preservation Office