“Camped on Squaw Butte Creek about 2 o’clock where we met Messrs.Vasquez and Walker, traders from the mountains, bound for Laramie Fort,” he continued, referring to Louis Vasquez, Jim Bridger’s partner in Fort Bridger, far to the southwest, and longtime fur-trade brigade leader Joe Walker.For a free, handy guidebook to the trails across Wyoming, complete with historic background, modern color photos and a good, fold-out map, order a copy of “National Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Across Wyoming,” from the National Park Service, National Trails System—Intermountain Region, 324 South State Street, Suite 200, Box 30, Salt Lake City, Utah, 801-741-1012, email [email protected]
Fifteen times as many emigrants—25,450 is the best estimate—traveled the trail that year as had the year before.
The creek was named from the French “la prêle,” meaning horsetail, a reference to the genus —the odd little stalk with a segmented, bamboo-looking stem and branching head that flourishes on moist, shady creek banks in the Rocky Mountains.
Audio tours are also available to rent for a nominal fee.
Facilities include a bookstore, interpretative trails and restrooms.
At La Prele Creek, the Fourth of July celebration was boisterous.“Camp on La Parele river,” William Lorton wrote July 3, 1849.
“[I]n the night have a grand jubilee fire 2 rounds of Fu de joy [a rifle salute of running fire, from the French “feu de joie”]. Load an old musket heavy, set a slow match & burst her,” he wrote. The La Parele river empties into the Platte & is a right smart stream for a small one …”Perhaps wary of a Shoshone party nearby, Lorton and his companions were careful to guard their oxen closely.
Along the creek there are still growths of horsetail and cattails, though it is probably drier now than in trail days.
An older name for the same plant is Mike’s Head—which also gave another name to the creek.
About 70 miles northwest of Fort Laramie, the Oregon Trail crossed La Prele Creek, flowing north from the Laramie Range toward the North Platte River a few miles away. But earlier, in the 1840s and 1850s, the trail left the river for a slightly more direct route, and for the better water available in the tributary creeks.
Army in 1867 would build Fort Fetterman, which became an important supply base in the wars with the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux in the following decade.