The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word “Casper” is “Casper the Friendly Ghost”. The first thing that came to mind when I drove into the city of Casper on a Friday afternoon is “ghost town”.
Casper, which grew during an oil boom in the early 1900s, has a nice little downtown but it seemed to be completely devoid of people. It wasn’t the best first impression, so I hope we just came on the wrong day.
We took a quick walk down 2nd Street and peeked into the windows of some shops and restaurants. Other than a couple of historic theatres, including the 1921 Rialto Theater, there wasn’t much of interest.
The big draw to Casper is the museums. There are a few we would like to have visited, but due to a lack of time, we could only choose one. The winner was Fort Caspar. I’ll have to stop and see some of the others next time I pass through.
Fort Caspar has a museum that tells the history of Casper, from its Native American beginnings to its military outpost days in the mid-1800s to the oil boom and the present.
Replica of the Fort
Behind the museum is a replica of the 1865 Fort Caspar which stood nearby. Caspar was named for Lieutenant Caspar Collins, a young officer who was killed in the Battle of Platte Ridge Station against the Lakota and Cheyenne. Interestingly, he was the son of Colonel William O. Collins for whom Fort Collins, Colorado, is named.
The original name of the fort was Platte Bridge Station and was renamed Fort Caspar after the death of Collins. Why is the city of Casper spelled differently? A mere typo.
The fort has several buildings that have been decorated the way it may have looked in 1865. There are barracks, a kitchen, officers’ quarters, and more.
Admission to Fort Caspar is US$3 in the summer (May 1 to September 30) and US$1.50 in the winter. It’s open daily from 8am to 5pm but the fort buildings are closed in the winter.
Lunch at the Sandwich Bar
Before visiting anything in the city, we had lunch at the Sandwich Bar. It’s a fun place that has a build-your-own sandwich concept. You choose the bread and toppings from several different fresh ingredients and pay by weight. There’s no complaining if your sandwich is bad – you made it yourself! They also serve excellent soups.
Fill Up Your Tank!
One important note – if heading south towards Independence Rock, make sure you have at least a half tank of gas.