The beaver fur trade may be long gone, but there’s still a way to get a glimpse of how things looked when the fur trappers and mountain men of the mid-1800s got together.
The 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous, the only rendezvous reenactment held at the actual site of a rendezvous staged more than a century ago, will run through the weekend in Riverton.
Featuring people dressed as mountain men and activities such as black powder shooting demonstrations, tomahawk and knife competitions and dutch-oven cooking, the event is a recreation of the gatherings held annually when fur trappers would meet to sell their wares to companies, said Rick Lechner, who has been involved in the rendezvous for a number of years.
“A rendezvous was where the trappers would come out of the mountains and fur companies would come from places like St. Louis and they would do their trading there every summer,” said Lechner, who goes by the name of “Smoking Hawk” while wearing his mountain man clothing. “It was a time for the trappers to blow off some steam, have some fun and sell their furs.”
The 1838 rendezvous was one of the last held in the Rockies as silk replaced beaver pelts in the manufacturing of hats, Lechner said, but it was also one of the largest on record.
“That was the last big rendezvous because the silk industry came in,” he said. “There were over 1,000 horses and mules. They would set up a main area for trade, but then they would go up and down the river for several miles.”
The event’s activities center around what would have been common skills for the period, including starting a fire with flint and steel, trap setting, skinning, dutch oven cooking, black powder shooting and embroidery.
Events begin with opening ceremonies on Wednesday and continue throughout the weekend at the camp near the Popo Agie River.
Dressing in period clothing is encouraged, but not required.