The History of Elk Mountain, Wyoming.
Much of the historical significance of the Elk Mountain area lies in the development of the transportation network linking the east and west coasts.
The Medicine Bow River crossing was used by the John C. Fremont expedition of 1843. On August 2nd of that year, Fremont’s party camped in the proximity of the “Medicine Butte”, an early name for Elk Mountain. The river would become a major crossing for emigrant and stage-coach travelers.
The Stansbury expedition in the 1850, led by famed mountain man Jim Bridger, crossed the Medicine Bow farther north seeking a route for wagon travel. Later, in1856, Lt. F.T. Bryan, realized the potential of Stansbury’s route and suggested it be used for the Overland Stage started by stage coach king Ben Hollady. By 1862, the operation was imperiled by constant Indian attacks. Holladay chose to move the line southward, back to the Medicine Bow River Crossing, where he built a stage stop.
In 1862, Fort Halleck was built on the Overland Stage route a few miles west of Elk Mountain to protect travelers passing through this region. The fort was named after Major-General Henry G. Halleck, a key military aide to President Lincoln. The government maintained the fort from 1862 to 1866 when it was decommissioned because the Indian threat had diminished.
The owner of the stage stop found a sufficient volume of trail traffic to maintain a toll bridge, although eventually stage traffic waned.
During the years spanning 1862 to 1868 20,000 emigrants a year moved west along the Overland Trail. Elk Mountain’s first mercantile store was constructed in 1902 using lumber from the Carbon Timber Company.
In 1905 the Elk Mountain Hotel was built by John S. Evans, on the property previously used by the Overland Stage Station. The building’s architecture is Folk Victorian style reminiscent of what was found on the frontier during that time.
Adjacent to the Hotel stood the Garden Spot Pavilion. The Garden Spot was host to such famous entertainers as Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa and Lawrence Welk. These entertainers inspired hundreds to “jump on and ride” the Garden Spot’s magical dance floor during the 1950’s.
Both the Hotel and the Pavilion are listed on the National Register of Historic
Places but sadly the Garden Spot Pavilion was closed, deemed un-restorable and was demolished for safety reasons.
The Hotel property served as an important component in the economic and social life of the Elk Mountain community, as the lodging, mining and livestock industries boomed. The property enjoyed a steady clientele and became a way-station for entrepreneurs and laborers who traveled here for the timber, mineral and ranching industries.
Today the comfortable and welcoming Inn still stands where it was first constructed over100 years ago and welcomes guests’ year-around. Sitting as it does along the banks of the Medicine Bow River, Elk Mountain is a powerful draw for trout fisherman from across the world.
Visitors interested in beautiful scenery should take the round-the-mountain drive on Pass Creek Road as it is an area of stunning vistas teeming with wildlife and provides a real sense of adventure without too much inconvenience.