Casper, Wyoming Welcomes LDS Temple
At the April 2021 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), it was announced that a temple will be built in Casper, Wyoming. A groundbreaking was held in October 2021, with an estimated completion date of early to mid-2024.
Upon completion of the temple, the church will host an open house (more on that soon) where all will be welcome to tour the temple prior to it being dedicated. After the temple dedication, only active members (with a temple recommend) of the LDS Church can enter, as the temple is a sacred place for members, with ceremonies and ordinances that include marriages, endowments and more. And while the official name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members are often referred to as LDS or Mormon.
The Casper area has a significant place in the history of the LDS Church, early pioneers traveled through modern-day Wyoming on the Mormon Trail as part of their westward migration to Utah. Central Wyoming is home to many historical sites and significant Mormon pioneer history. One of the best ways to learn about the history and paths traveled by Mormon pioneers is to spend some time exploring the area and experiencing it for yourself.
Whether you’re planning a trip to visit the Casper Wyoming Temple or just interested in learning more about the area and Wyoming’s Mormon history, here are must-see places that will teach you about what these early pioneers went through in their quest for religious freedom.
Martin’s Cove: A Mormon Handcart Historic Site
Located 55 miles southwest of Casper is Martin’s Cove. This is the place where handcart pioneers – specifically the Martin and Willie handcart companies – took shelter during a winter storm. Today, Martin’s Cove is an important historical site for the LDS church and the on-site visitor center has artwork, artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the handcart and wagon companies who departed late in the season and needed to be rescued in 1856. When Brigham Young, who at the time was the prophet for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, learned that saints were stranded on the high plains of Wyoming, he sent out rescue wagons and teams to bring the stranded companies the rest of the way to Salt Lake City. More than 200 wagons were used in the rescue efforts from early October through mid-December of 1856. And while several pioneers died at Martin’s Cove, many were rescued. Today, Martin’s Cove remains as a “place of rescue” and an important historical site for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Open year-round, visitors can explore the visitor center, walk the Martin’s Cove Trail and pull a handcart along the trail. Visitors can also request a trek reservation, which is available from late May through mid-August.
Sun Ranch at Devil’s Gate
A National Historic Landmark, Sun Ranch was homesteaded as a cattle ranch by Tom Sun in 1872. Prior to that, it was an area where hundreds of thousands of pioneers traveled through on their journey to Utah, California, Oregon and Nevada. In 1996, the LDS Church purchased the property and now it is primarily used to tell the story of a family cattle ranch in the 19th century. Located throughout the property are unmarked trail graves that silently share the history of the early pioneers that traveled through here on the Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express trails.
A massive granite outcropping sitting along State Route 220 about an hour’s drive from Casper (and 6 miles from Sun Ranch) is Independence Rock. The rock’s highest point sits at 136 feet above the surrounding terrain, with a view of Devil’s Gate in the distance, while its rockface is home to thousands of signatures and carvings left by pioneers. The site also has a path that goes all the way around the base of the rock, with interpretive exhibits that tell the story of early travelers. Hiking is allowed on the rock; however, they suggest keeping off the earliest inscriptions as they are starting to fade away. Read on to learn more about the history of Independence Rock.
National Historic Trails Interpretive Center
Located in Casper, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is a must-see destination in Central Wyoming. The Trails Center – as it's often called – has interpretive and hands-on exhibits regarding the Mormon Trail, as well as the Oregon, California and Pony Express trails.
Historic Trails West
One of the best ways to experience life on the trail is to plan a trek with Historic Trails West. You can travel the historic trails much like the early pioneers did on their journey to the West, on either horseback or covered wagon. Treks range from shorter two-hour outings to multi-day trips where you sleep on the banks of the North Platte River in a tipi, covered wagon or out in the open air. These treks are available for all ages.