Pony Express Lives on in Wyoming’s Wind River Country

The Pony Express only lasted 19 months, but it was the stuff of legends, so much so that for 37 years the National Pony Express Association has been holding annual re-rides across the U.S.

Between April 4, 1860 and October 24, 1861, Pony Express riders galloped on horseback across the plains from St. Joseph, Missouri to San Francisco, California, handing off of the mochila—mail bag—from one rider to the next.

This year, June 15–25, 2016, more than 600 riders will cover the 1,966-mile route along the Pony Express National Historic Trail from Sacramento, California to St. Joseph, Missouri, passing through Wyoming’s Wind River Country on Monday, June 20. Of the approximately 165 Wyoming members of the National Pony Express Association, 160 are riding in the re-ride this month, estimated Les Bennington, Wyoming state president of the National Pony Express Association.

Two of those riders are Heidi Powell and her daughter, Vanessa, 19, of Riverton.

“It’s just really cool to be able to ride from Atlantic City to Jeffrey City,” Heidi, captain of the Rocky Ridge Division said, describing a quiet mountain pass in Fremont County on BLM Road 2302. “It’s too surreal to be able to explain, but to be able to ride your horse at night, and you’re just moving—you don’t have much to think about because there isn’t a lot of traffic—it’s just beautiful.”

Approximately 10 horses and six riders will cover the 77-mile stretch between Atlantic City and Jeffrey City that night, and one of the key differences is that riders each only run a few miles—rather than the full stretch between stations—before handing off the mochila.

This year, Atlantic City is scheduled to get the mail between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Monday, June 20, though the National Pony Express Association points out the mail can run up to two hours ahead or behind schedule. Interested viewers can watch the riders from town, as well as tracking them online thanks to the GPS unit riders will carry in addition to 900-1,000 U.S. Mail letters.

“Atlantic City is just a cool place to be anyway,” Heidi said. “It will still be daylight, so you will be able to see the riders, the trailers, the transition of the mochila—probably to my daughter’s horse … she’s phenomenal.”

As the National Pony Express Association keeps the legend of the Pony Express alive generation after generation, so, too, does Heidi. She became involved in the re-run through her late father and has since watched her daughter become a key member of the Rocky Ridge Division. And the story of the Pony Express lives on.

Should you miss the re-run this month, you can also witness a Pony Express reenactment during Gold Rush Days at South Pass City Historic Site July 9–10.

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Related Links: Lander Chamber of CommerceRiverton Chamber of Commerce, Dubois Chamber of CommerceDestination Dubois

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About Wind River Country/Fremont County

Wyoming’s Wind River Country is the authentic, untamed West. It holds the answers to your adventurous spirit. Come discover new things like the best route to Yellowstone, see an Indian powwow, ride a horse or holler at a rodeo, pan for real gold, and hike in country that will take your breath away. Find the pace to think, the room to breathe, and the uncontrived adventure to rejuvenate your soul in Wind River Country.