Long before the mass move to the West, trappers and traders shared the area with Indians. Then, in 1836, the first white women crossed the pass en route to Oregon. Eliza Spalding and Narcissa Whitman were missionaries along with their husbands. Tales of rich gold in the South Pass started soon after they made their historic journey. Once the Spaldings and Whitmans crossed the mountains, other trains of settlers began to follow.
In 1849, gold was discovered in California and the South Pass route saw increased travel. Thousands of people made their way along the North Platte River onto the high desert and through the pass. It became common knowledge that if one didn’t get through the pass shortly after Independence Day, the likelihood of reaching Oregon or California ahead of the deadly winter storms diminished each day. Indians scared away many would-be gold seekers, so it wasn’t until 1865 that the first serious search for gold began.
The first mining district in the county was organized, and two years later the Carrisa Lode was found by a Mormon group. Word of huge gold deposits spread like wildfire, and by 1868 more than 2,000 people had gathered in the pass. But tales of a rich mother lode were soon proven false. By the end of that year, each of the towns had fewer than 50 residents.
South Pass enjoyed popularity only for a very short time after that. The transcontinental railroad was built, not through the pass as some had urged but through the flat southern Wyoming desert. However, remnants of the old towns allow visitors to experience the beauty of South Pass. A museum, a cemetery and old cabins have been restored. Those who catch a case of gold fever can pan for the precious metal in streams. Camping accommodations are available, as well as fishing, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Carissa Mine Project
In 2003, the State of Wyoming purchased the Carissa Mine through funds from the Wyoming State Legislature. The purchase ushered in a new phase of development at
South Pass City. With the mine came 9 historic structures, 17 significant mine features and 201 acres.
To date, the Abandoned Mine Lands Division (AML) of the Department of the Environmental Quality has put $2.2 million into restorations and safety issues at the Carissa. These funds have been utilized to remove hazardous waste, stabilize buildings, replace windows & install public viewing platforms.
South Pass City State Historic Site is in a period of exceptional growth. With the addition of the Carissa Mine to South Pass City, the site is uniquely positioned to become one of the flagship historic sites in the nation.
South Pass City Tours and Events
May through September, school children and visitors are offered an opportunity to learn about the history of the town and its residents by participating in guided tours of South Pass City.
Gold Rush Days - Every year mid July
Enjoy a vintage baseball tournament, Wyoming State Mining Championships, food, games, music and interpretive programs. You’ll be able to imagine what life was like 100 years ago in the mountains.
• Over 20 original structures
• Interpretive self-guided tours
• Thousands of artifacts original to South Pass City
• Gold Mining Interpretive Center
Take U.S. 191 N. Take a slight right onto WY-28 towards South Pass City
For more information
Specials & Packages
Whether visiting for a week or just passing through, check out our current Specials & Packages!