South Pass City is a historic gold mining town and is one of Wyoming’s largest historic sites, with 24 historic structures, more than 30 period room exhibits, a visitors’ center, picnic areas and nature trails. Living history demonstrations, lectures and movies are presented on weekends throughout the summer, and the July 4th celebration is one of the oldest and biggest in the state. Located 35 miles southwest of Lander on WYO 28, the historic site is open daily, from May 15 to Oct. 15.
Located north of the historic Oregon Trail, South Pass City was built in 1867 as a result of a gold mining boom in the Sweetwater Mining District. When the Carissa Mine struck a rich vein, hundreds of western prospectors rushed to the area hoping to finally find the mother lode. Within one year, the town’s population soared to 2,000 people and South Pass Avenue grew to a half mile in length as saloon owners, freighters, bankers, blacksmiths and other merchants followed the miners to South Pass.
More than 30 gold mines were open and dozens of sluicing operations dotted the scenic hillsides. South Pass City also played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement. William Bright, one of the town’s representatives in the Territorial Legislature in 1869, introduced a women’s suffrage bill. It passed and was signed by the governor, making Wyoming the first territory or state in the country where women could vote and hold political office. Just two months later, Esther Hobart Morris was appointed the town’s justice of the peace, becoming the nation’s first female judge. But, all booms must end. A bust hit the South Pass country in 1872, and most of the people moved away however, two more booms – ranching and lately tourism have kept South Pass City alive.