Old West Reenactment Sites in the Mountain West
American pioneer history comes to life in these interactive forts, festivals and boomtowns.
Historic Lecompton in Kansas is well known for its impressive group called the Lecompton Reenactors. In dramatic yet informative productions this group transports their audience back to territorial Kansas touching on the politics and warfare that occurred throughout the beginnings of the Civil War. Meet and interact with historical characters and get tours of the famous Consitution Hall, the first democratic office in Kansas, and the Lane Museum, which was supposed to be the Capitol Building.
From 1828 to 1867, The Fort Union Trading Post in Williston, North Dakota remained one of the most important trading centers in the United States. Trades occurred between Native American tribes and the American Fur Company, a mutually beneficial relationship that is now emphasized to visitors. Fort Union is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark and U.S. National Historic Site. Students can experience the importance of trading and appreciate both native culture and the history of the fort while visiting.
Deadwood Alive in South Dakota keeps true to its name by bringing alive the old west through productions, reenactments and interactive activities with the performers. There is the “Mock Trial of Jack McCall” where people are pulled from the audience to participate as jurors. Students can take the “Lawman’s Patrol” where they stop at multiple sites across town to learn and experience the rich history of Deadwood. The hour-long tour touches on the discovery of gold, old western architecture and much more. They even offer daily authentic gunfight shows in the center of town that are free to watch.
Once an important trading ground with native tribes, Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Calhoun, Nebraska now preserves the memory of the first military base west of the Mississippi River. “The Friends of Fort Atkinson” (FOFA) is a group of volunteers who reenact to important historical events and play the lives of former soldiers and civilians. The fort also hosts many “living-history” weekends where students can immerse themselves in education and exciting activities that show what a day in the life used to be like. There is also a Visitors Center for those interested in deeper historical information.
Spanning over almost 100 acres, Fort Lupton and South Platte Valley Park in Colorado is full of historic sites and interactive experiences for students to learn about past battles to agriculture. These lands are apart of the South Platte Valley Historical Society, which holds several reenactments throughout the year like “Trapper Days Rendezvous” where people are dressed as pilgrims and a ‘Traders Row” is set up with good from the 1830s. However, their most popular event is the Heritage Fair, which has reenactment groups showcase a historical timeline of the land from when the Vikings came to the 1800s. Students will get to compare and contrast different civilizations and learn who lived there.
Fort Bridger Mountain Man Rendezvous is an annual reenactment weekend held the first weekend of September at Fort Bridge, Wyoming. Students will get to experience what life was like during the early 1800s at one of the biggest trading posts between Native Americans and Americans in the west. The weekend involves demonstrations of frontier skills, archery, reenactments by historians and live authentic music and dancing.
Let your students experience what it was like to be a pioneer at The National Oregon/ California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho. Here students can experience a simulated wagon ride, visit an authentic gun shop, and interact with live historical actors. The center even has a tour especially designed for students to learn about the Old West and the interworking of the Oregon Trail through interactive activities and demonstrations.
The Montana Living History Program is dedicated to educating the public on what old western Montana was like. Students can experience what a day in the old west was like by interacting with volunteers who reenact many historical events. They have everything from artisans to historians to professional firearm experts to inform your students on Montana’s historic past.
The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City, Utah is a cultural experience that brings to life the early settlements of Utah combined with the prominent Native American village. The Heritage Village is a collection of buildings that make up a small town that students can explore. Some of the buildings include a barn and blacksmith shop, where you can interact with the workers and ask them questions. The Native American Village allows students to experience traditional music and dancing while seeing authentic teepees and making crafts. This park bring both of these worlds together to give people a comprehensive glimpse into 19th century Utah life.