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Kenneth Mays
The Sweetwater River flows eastward into Devil's Gate.

On June 21, 1847, pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led by President Brigham Young paused for lunch at Independence Rock, Wyoming. They continued on for several more miles, crossing the Sweetwater River.

That evening the pioneer company camped in present-day southern Natrona County about a half mile from the mouth of a deep gorge cut by the river. This gorge is known as Devil’s Gate.

Kenneth Mays
The Sweetwater River flows through Devil's Gate.

Company member Horace K. Whitney described the site saying that it presented “at once a scene of romantic interest and grandeur. … The chasm or pass between the rocks above named is called Devil’s Gate” (see "The Journey West: The Mormon Pioneer Journals of Horace K. Whitney," edited by Richard E. Bennett, page 277).

The trail itself did not pass through the gorge, which was virtually impassable for wagons. Travelers generally passed by south of it.

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Norton Jacob, another member of the pioneer company, noted: “There is a chasm or rent in the mountain some 80 feet wide and three hundred feet high through which the river rushes with great impetuosity for 20, 30 rods into the plain below” (see "The Mormon Vanguard Brigade of 1847: Norton Jacob’s Record," edited by Ronald O. Barney, page 180).

Five years later, a fort known as Devil’s Gate Fort or Fort Seminoe was constructed at or near the 1847 campsite. Located near Devil’s Gate is a site known as Martin’s Cove, where scenes of the suffering and death of members of the handcart companies of 1856 unfolded. These sites can be accessed and interpreted at the Mormon Handcart Historic Site. The address is 47600 WY-220, Alcova, WY 82620. Admission to the site is free.