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Picturing history: LaPrele Creek Campsite, Converse County, Wyoming

Brigham Young’s 1847 pioneer company camped on LaPrele Creek in present-day Converse County, Wyoming, on June 9, 1847. In his journal, company member Norton Jacob mentioned an interesting nearby site: “… made 8 miles and camped on La Piere creek (LaPrele), about the same size as those described yesterday. This creek has cut its way through a high mountain and for ten rods (there is) a rock arch” as Norton Jacob noted according to "The Mormon Vanguard Brigade of 1847," edited by Ronald O. Barney.

Bison on the Wyoming plains near Ayres Natural Bridge, Converse County, Wyoming.
Bison on the Wyoming plains near Ayres Natural Bridge, Converse County, Wyoming.
Kenneth Mays

In a journal entry for the following day, June 10, 1847, Horace K. Whitney recorded that he had learned of that same natural wonder from Joseph Hancock. Hancock was the man once nicknamed “Nimrod” by the Prophet Joseph Smith because of his hunting skills, according to "We’ll Find the Place," by Richard Bennett.

Whitney writes, as published in "The Journey West: The Mormon Pioneer Journals of Horace K. Whitney With Insights by Helen Mar Kimball Whitney," edited by Bennett: “I understood from J. Hancock, that a portion of the stream on which we encamped last night … runs thro’ a natural tunnel of rock arched over.”

Today, that “tunnel of rock” is known as Ayers Natural Bridge. Many travelers did not see this natural wonder because the trail ran 1 to 2 miles away from it. The site was donated to the state of Wyoming by the Ayers family. The bridge had been part of their ranch. The site is now a park owned and operated by Converse County, Wyoming. It is presently accessible to the public as a picnic and camping site during the months of favorable weather, generally April 1-Oct. 31. There are a few free campsites at the park.