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Confluence Trail

Fort Laramie’s Confluence Trail offers a pleasant stroll along the shady banks of two waterways, The North Platte and the Laramie Rivers, as they near their confluence. The resulting riparian area has long offered shelter and valuable resources for people and wildlife for hundreds of years. The two rivers leave the last of the mountains and flow out onto the plains of Eastern Wyoming and on down to Nebraska. The riparian band of vegetation offers a wide range of plant and wildlife habitats, much as it has throughout history.

photo: Trail and bench near rivers confluence

Length: 1.60 miles
Loop Trail? Yes
Type: Fitness Trail, Nature Trail
Agency: National Park Service
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Bicycling (on pavement)
Dogs - On leash
Fishing
Heritage and History
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Wildlife Observation

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Location: In Fort Laramie National Historic Site, near the town of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, at the Historic Army Iron Bridge.

State(s):
Counties: Goshen
Longitude: -104.53361
Latitude: 42.20944

Driving Directions

The Confluence Trailhead is located .9 miles (1.5km) west of the town of Fort Laramie on Wyoming Highway 160

Description

The Confluence Trail is within the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, where it offers public access for visitors and residents. It is also designated as a Kids in Parks, Track Trail. The presence of two major waterways supports a rich and diverse plant community known as a riparian area. Cottonwoods, Willows and Ash trees dominate the lush woodlands along the banks of the North Platte and Laramie Rivers’. The trail offers an easy stroll through the woods and grassy open areas as you make a loop down one river and up the other. Rivers corridors are geographically important because they offer natural places for wildlife and human shelter, food sources, water and migration routes.
The area was an ideal location to build the original Fort William whose purpose was to trade with Native Americans. People have been living and moving up and down these rivers for at least 12,000 years. Just as wildlife such as Bison and Beaver have been here for thousands of years.
Before the building of reservoirs on both the Laramie and North Platte, these rivers flooded every year due to the melting snowpack in the higher elevations. Both have their headwaters high in the Colorado Rockies near the continental divide. These watersheds drain thousands of square miles of higher elevation, from the 4190’ at the confluence up to over 12,500’ near Walden, Colorado. In addition to the annual flooding, ice would wash down the river. These effects kept the channels wide and scoured clear of vegetation, the result being less abundant trees along the river banks. The only places where trees like cottonwoods could reach maturity were in protected areas where the high flows were slowed somewhat and less ice removed the seedlings that were growing in the backwaters much like where the Confluence Trail wanders. Perhaps the forest near the confluence is much the same as it was 300 years ago. Overall, there are many more trees and vegetation taking advantage of the moisture in the river bottoms of today than there were 300 years ago. Consider too, there are no longer large herds of Bison roaming the prairies like there were in the past. Another reason that there were fewer trees along the rivers in the 19 century, is that large horse herds owned by Native Americans and emigrants migrating along the banks. Cottonwood bark stripped from the tree trunks made good winter feed for horses and wood taken for the heating of army buildings.

Today’s riparian band along waterways flowing across the prairies is a place of natural diversity. The woodland area still provides a refuge for much the same wildlife and aquatic life as what existed those 300 years ago. Birdwatchers find dozens of bird species, especially in the spring and fall migrations. Predators such as coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, mink and weasels are present to hunt for small rodents, squirrels, whitetail and mule deer, and the occasional wapiti. The park’s animal species list is over 100 critters long. There are over 325 species of vascular plants as well as a dozen or so of reptiles and amphibians. The trail provides access to fishing for game fish in both rivers. A Wyoming fishing license is required.
In addition to the chances of experiencing a new wildlife observation, hikers on the trail can get a sense of the history that took place in this very area. Native Americans lived in this river valley for thousands of years, mountain men traveled up and down the rivers in search of beaver pelts, Emigrants on their way to the goldfields of California and new lives in the west have camped in the shade of cottonwood trees just like the trees you can relax under today.

Additional Details

Width: 62 inches.
Primary Surface: Soil
Secondary Surface: Grass or Vegetation
Gravel
Rock, smooth
Sand
Soil

Average Grade: 1%
Maximum Grade: 20%
Elevation Low Point: 4,190
Elevation High Point: 4,220
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:
2021

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Brochure: The trail at an incline.
Map: Map of Confluence Trail and surrounding area.

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Mark Davison
Park Superintendant
National Park Service
965 Grey Rocks Road
Fort Laramie, WY 82212 -7625
(307) 837-2221
[email protected]

 

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