Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Pathfinders

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Jim Bridger

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the west’s greatest explorers and scouts – Jim Bridger.

When Bridger was 8 years old, he and his family went down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi to St. Louis.  Bridger was soon orphaned and supported himself by running a ferry across the Mississippi.  At the age of 18, Bridger poled a keelboat up the Missouri under Mike Fink as part of Ashley and Henry’s famed expedition.  Bridger was the first trapper to see the Great Salt Lake and the only person known to run the treacherous Bad Pass of the Big Horn River.

Bridger was the pilot for scores of fur trapping brigades to nearly all the beaver-rich streams of the west, including the Green, Yellowstone, Three Forks, Snake, and Missouri Rivers.  He commanded Kit Carson, founded Fort Bridger, and interpreted at the Fort Laramie 1851 Indian Peace Council.  He advised Mormon visionary Brigham Young on his trek to Salt Lake, helped select the route of the transcontinental railroad, and guided survey crews. 

He was guide to a scientific expedition for the Smithsonian on the Yellowstone and was the Army’s most valued scout during the Indian Wars of the 1860s.  An illiterate mountain man, Jim Bridger was a walking atlas of the west with an unerring ability to pilot his way along wilderness, rivers and streams.

Inducted in 2004.

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