The LDS Church, which bought the Sun Ranch last summer, will open to the public historical sites on the ranch in time for this summer's 150th anniversary celebration of the Mormon Trail, a ranch official said.
Russell T. Johnson, director of the ranch's visitor center, said the ranch headquarters near Devil's Gate, a landmark used by travelers along the trail, will be converted to a visitors center. The center and other sites in the ranch, which straddles the Carbon-Natrona county line, should be opened to the public by May 1, he said.He said the center will include displays on the history of the ranch, the area, and the several historic trails that pass through the area.
Johnson said the Oregon, Mormon and Gold Rush trails, as well as the Pony Express Route, go through the ranch.
"(The trails) were truly the Interstate 80s of the 1800s," Johnson said. "Bit by bit, these old trails get obliterated and then they're gone."
Four generations of the Sun family have owned the ranch since it was founded by Tom Sun Sr. in 1872.
He said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints intends to maintain the ranch as a working cattle ranch.
Carbon County planning commissioners are considering a request from the ranch to allow the placement of trailers to house church missionaries who will work as volunteers at the visitor center.
Johnson said the volunteers also would help educate visitors on the history of the ranch and the trails.
He said visitors will have access to historic sites along the trail segment that passes through the ranch including Martin's Cove, where 56 Mormons died in October 1856.
He said the church also plans to build an overlook with historical information and spotting scopes along Wyoming Highway 220 near Devil's Gate.