Photo courtesy: Lonesome Spur Ranch
Photo courtesy: Nancy Bennett
Bridger is south of Billings, 21 miles from the Wyoming line. It was named for Jim Bridger, one of the first white men to explore Yellowstone National Park. Bridger was born about 1795, worked for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and in 1842 built a trading post, Fort Bridger, on the Black Fork of the Green River. He scouted many trails, including the one that still bears his name. Army officers vied with each other to hire him as a guide. There was the popular belief that he could map any part of the Rocky Mountains from memory, and Bridger himself boasted he could smell his way when he couldn't see it.
One of the first activities in Bridger was a coal mine opened up by George Town; for a while the locality was known as Georgetown because of him. Later an adjoining cluster of houses called Stringtown became a part of another nearby mining camp. Jim Bridger guided a wagon train bound for Virginia City in 1864 and forded it across the Clark Fork River near this place. The spot came to be known as Bridger's Crossing and eventually the name Bridger was adopted for the town. East Bridger was a stop on the Burlington Railroad with loading facilities and a side track. A county bridge over the Clark Fork River connects it with Bridger. (from Cheney's Names on the Face of Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company)
The Pryor Mountains are located east of Bridger and cover about 300,000 acres. Bridger is the gateway to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Drive southeast on US Highway 310 to Lovell, Wyoming, then north on Wyoming Highway 37 to reach Devil's Canyon Overlook. This scenic view of Bighorn Canyon is where the canyon crosscuts a 1,000-foot-high segment of the fault that makes up the Pryor Mountains. The Pryor Mountains are home to about 130 wild, free-roaming mustangs believed to have descended from a herd that may have arrived as early as the 1700s. Visitors may catch a glimpse of them at the Pryor Mountains National Wild Horse Range, just north of the overlook. This rugged, desert-like country offers hiking, birding, and backcountry driving.
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