Top 10 True Western Towns of 2013

#7 Pinedale, Wyoming

It’s hard to say just exactly when Pinedale got started. American Indians, of course, lived in the region for millennia. Mountain men started trickling into the area in the first decades of the 1800s, drawn by the hope of easy money to be made in the fur trade.

But the community didn’t truly take off until the latter years of the 19th century, when settlers like Charles Petersen and his family moved into what was then called the Pine Creek Flat area.

Before long, the inhabitants decided they needed their own post office. Petersen’s wife became the first postmistress of the community, which, at the suggestion of Petersen’s eldest daughter, was renamed Pinedale.

Today, Pinedale is the largest community in Sublette County, with a population of around 2,000. It is located at the base of the Wind River Range, not far from the Bridger Wilderness Area.

Last year, Pinedale hosted the “Preserve Wyoming” conference and saw the grand opening of the Sommers Ranch Homestead, a living history site that showcases early 20th-century life in Sublette County.

Preservation work continues at the Lander Trail New Fork Crossing, an 82-acre historical park operated by the Sublette County Historical Society.

The town’s Museum of the Mountain Man greets visitors with its imposing, 10-foot-high statue of a mountain man. The museum portrays the authentic lifestyle of the trappers, as well as provides a comprehensive overview of the historical and economic impact of the fur trade out West. One of our favorite exhibits is the .40 caliber half-stock rifle engraved “J. Bridger 1853,” a gift from Louis Vasquez to his friend and business partner, Jim Bridger. Also worth checking out is the 300-year-old sheephorn bow (said to be the finest still in existence), a buffalo hide tipi and a research library of rare books on early Wyoming history and the fur trade. The museum draws around 8,000 visitors every May through October.

Last year, the museum hosted the Fur Trade Symposium to mark the 200th anniversary of the passage of the Astor Expedition through the region.

Pinedale has held the Green River Rendezvous every summer since 1936. This year’s rendezvous, scheduled for July 11-14, commemorates the original 1833 gathering of mountain men, trappers and fur traders, which took place a few miles west of modern-day Pinedale and became an annual tradition through 1840.

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