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Mountain Man Rendezvous:

From 1820-1840, rugged and adventuresome young men ventured into the Northern Rockies to trap critters for their fur. The main prize: beaver pelts! The pelts were used to make fashionable top hats for wealthy Europeans. It was a colorful and noteworthy time in American History. While no actual Rendezvous occurred in Jackson Hole proper, many Rendezvous did take place within only short distances of here. I believe there is plenty of evidence the trappers worked in the valley. In most years, a Rendezvous was held to allow the trappers to sell and trade their pelts for money and supplies. By all accounts, most rendezvous were loud and rowdy. If you are ever in Pinedale, WY, be sure to visit The Museum of the Mountain Man. Visit their site for more information and photos of both the history of the mountain men and the museum itself. Their book shop is brimming with books on the subject.

Ft Bridger

Throughout the Northern Rockies, numerous Mountain Man Rendezvous are held each year. Many of them are held on, or very near the original sites. Colorful characters attend the events, clad in period garb from head to toe. Many can speak the language and most are well versed in the history. They are almost always friendly and willing to talk with visitors, even the ones carrying cameras!

Many StringsI spent a few summers going to the area’s Rendezvous. I’ll go to several of them again this year, too. I developed lasting friendships with many of them and am deeply saddened to hear of one’s passing. My little buddy “Leprechaun” passed away just this year.

A couple of years ago, I was given the camp name “Shadow Catcher”. That was quite an honor of course. That’s also what the Native Americans called Edwin S. Curtis. I definitely share a kindred spirit with many of them.

Tips

If you go to a Rendezvous, be aware they might not want you to take their picture. All it usually takes is a little eye contact, a point to your camera and a nod. You’re good to go! Or you can simply ask them and get an answer. Few of them will ever ask you to pay them, but if you ever plan on using the images for anything commercial, I’d suggest getting a model release and paying them “something”. Some will accept a photo of themselves, but if you say you are going to do it, please follow through! If you snap a shot of someone doing something—like using a draw knife to make a bow or playing a banjo—ask before you leave them. If they say no, delete the photos right in front of them. I did that with one of them at one Rendezvous. The next time I saw him, he let me take all I wanted. It’s all about respect!  In reality, most of them dress up to “put on the show” and are more than willing to be photographed, but few of them like “posing” for shots. Candid shots are usually better anyway. Tony “Many Strings”, seen here, is a regular and seems to love having his photo taken. Under a pelt, he sells CDs with his wonderful music.

In some cases, you have to be careful of your own safety. They can be throwing knives and “hawks” (short for tomahawks), which are both sharp. There will likely be hot pots and kettles. In some areas, they will be firing black powder rifles and shooting arrows out of their bows.

Camp Henry

Most of the Mountain Man participants are long time friends (and sometimes enemies)! When I came home after seeing my first Rendezvous camp at Ashton, Idaho, I told my wife it reminded me of group camping or family reunions “with a theme”.  The theme, of course, is all wrapped around a 20 year slice of American History. Usually, there is what they call a “primitive camp” near the center of the main Rendezvous area. Tourists usually leave the areas on Friday and Saturday around 5 or 6 pm, leaving them to spend the rest of the evenings still in their period clothing. They often have campfire talks, sing songs, or simply drink the night away. Outside the main Rendezvous area, there is often a “tin can” camp. Some shed their period gear and spend the night in relative luxury, but must wear their gear to go back into the camps. Unless you are in period gear, a photographer is not welcome in the camp after hours.

Leprechaun and Shamrock

There are Mountain Man Rendezvous being held all over the country, and all year! The historic Rendezvous all happened in the Northern Rockies—mostly in NW Wyoming, Eastern Idaho, and Northern Utah. The Bannock and Shoshone Indian tribes were relatively friendly to the trappers in this area, while other tribes to the north were much more hostile. Still, it boggles my mind to hear of Mountain Man Rendezvous being held in Florida, or even Oklahoma! But then, there are Shakespeare Festivals all over the world.

West YS

Lastly, there is a group or organization that calls themselves “The American Mountain Men” (AMM). These are the hard core modern mountain men. Check out their web site for more information. This group prides themselves in “getting it right”. They study every piece of literature and book they can get their hands on. From books, paintings, and manuscripts, they accurately recreate the life of the original Mountain Men. They go out on extended primitive camping trips and horseback rides across the region several times a year. They make me realize I am a true “flat lander”—yet I have the utmost respect for them. The same group can be found at the Museum of the Mountain Man during the Green River Rendezvous teaching their knowledge about the original Mountain Men to the public and visitors. Rest assured, anything in their camp will be well researched and authentic!

Griz

2017* Area Rendezvous Schedules

This list should be fairly complete, but it’d be easy to miss one. The first Rendezvous starts around Easter and ends with a bang on Labor Day. Some of the Rendezvous traders then trade in their fur garb and head south to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for a circuit of western shows and fairs. *Indicates updated 2016 date.

*Fort Buenaventura Rendezvous:  April 13-16, 2017 (Easter Weekend) Ogden, UT  (801) 399-8099. I’ve never been to this rendezvous, but quite a few people told me it would be worth a trip. Check their Facebook page on the link to for information and directions. This is the first (regional) rendezvous of the season as far as I know.

Bitterroot Rocky Mountain Rendezvous: I did searches on the Internet for dates but didn’t see them. Check with the Chamber of Commerce in Eureka, MT. The approximate dates are around May 1st this year. I have never been to this one and information is scarce.

*Jackson Hole Mountain Man Rendezvous: May 20-29, 2017. Part of Old West Days.  Traders usually start showing up to the Teton County Fairgrounds during the week prior to Memorial Day and stay until the end of the Memorial Day weekend. Since the event is in town, there is no black powder shooting, but both Mountain Men and visitors can throw a Hawk and Knife or shoot a Bow and Arrow at one of the targets. Traders are set up on the grassy area, loaded with gear and trinkets, and plenty of stories to tell. Visitors are welcome and there is no admission fee.

*Port-Neuf Mountain Man Rendezvous: June 2-4, 2017 near McCammon, Idaho . I haven’t been to this rendezvous. Not sure, but I believe it is heavily concentrated on black powder shooting and contests. Check out their web site for more details.

*Cache Valley Rendezvous: Usually over Memorial Day weekend, July 21-24, 2017: This is near Logan, Utah in the Blacksmith’s Fork Canyon. Sponsored by Old Ephraim Mountain Man Club/435) 563-1913. I had a great time there a few years ago. There are lots of camps and tents scattered up and down the valley floor. Besides all of the characters, this rendezvous is great for shots of the tents, tipis, and morning smoke. Open to the public with a small entry fee unless you are wearing pre-1840 garb.

*Fort Henry Rendezvous:: First Weekend in June 7-11 2017 . Hosted by the Fort Henry Buckskinners. For most of the recent years, this event was held at one of the historic sites called Camp Henry, near Ashton, ID. This year, the event is moving to the old historic Fort Henry site near Parker, ID. The people running this Rendezvous always put on a great event. It is free to the public and visitors are truly welcome there. Besides the normal Rendezvous activities, this event hosts the Idaho Hawk and Knife Competition. It is also one of the few rendezvous with a cannon shoot. Those things are absolutely amazing. Some can shoot a bowling ball out of sight! This is about 75 miles from Jackson.

*1838 Rendezvous: June 29-July 1, 2017. Riverton, WY. Held at one of the original historic Mountain Man Rendezvous. Open to the public. I drove over to this Rendezvous a few years ago and had a good time.

*Hog Heaven Muzzleloaders Annual Father’s Day Rendezvous: Father’s Day weekend 2017, Troy, Idaho

*Idaho Free Trapper’s 33rd Annual Backwards Rendezvous: June 15-18  2017, Kennedy Ranch, Cascade, ID

*Green River Rendezvous: July 6-9, 2017. Pinedale, WY. Even if you don’t have a calendar, you can count on this Rendezvous happening on the second full weekend in July. There are three parts to this Rendezvous. Trader’s Row is located a block off the main street downtown. It’s easy to find. The streets are lined with contemporary artists, craftsmen, antiques and food vendors . Up on the hilltop, a the permanent Museum of the Mountain Man is surrounded by a group of  “American Mountain Men” (AMM). Lastly, on Sunday afternoon, you can attend the Green River Rendezvous Pageant. It starts at 1:00 pm. Check the web site for all the details. Pinedale is about 75 miles from Jackson.

*Rocky Mountain National RendezvousJuly 7 – July 16 2017. The RMNR does not require membership in anything, our only requirement is that participants abide by our simple rules, and join in the spirit of rendezvous. The Elkhorn Ranch, near Montpelier, ID

West Yellowstone Smoking Waters Rendezvous: First Week of August, West Yellowstone, MT. Located just on the west edge of West Yellowstone, this Rendezvous gets a lot of traffic. It is next to the main road heading into town. I like to go there to see old friends, plus I get to go through Yellowstone in both directions if I desire. There are usually plenty of traders and an area for Hawk and Knife throwing. The black powder shoots are off premise a few miles.

Red Lodge Mountain Man Rendezvous: Early August. Located near the highway just north of Red Lodge, MT. This is a “two for one” trip for me when I get to go to this one. I get to drive through Yellowstone and over Beartooth Pass to get to it. Afterwards, I have the choice to go back through the Park or drop down to Cody and through that part of the park on the way home. Admission is free and visitors are welcome during daytime hours.

Teton Valley Mountain Man Rendezvous: ? Victor, ID 9000 S. Hwy 33. I am not sure if this event is still ongoing. Check the Chamber of Commerce via the link.  Tents and tipis are easily visible from the highway. Trader’s row is separated a short distance from the contemporary vendors, artists, and craftsmen. Check out their Facebook page for photos and comments from last year.

Bear Lake Rendezvous: August 3-6. 2017, Laketown, ID. I haven’t been to this Rendezvous. I spoke with a few people that did go and they said it was a very good rendezvous. It is located on the south end of Bear Lake. Check out their page for more information and events.

*Hugh Glass Rendezvous: August 24-27, 2017 , Lemmon, SD. Hugh Glass is the trapper/guide portrayed in “The Revenant”.  Click the link for this year’s info, see a few gallery photos and a video of last year’s event.

*Bear River Rendezvous: Weekend before Bridger. August 25-27, 2017.  Evanston, ID. I’ve been to this one, located in the park next to the Bear River. I had a very good time there and got lots of wonderful images. No admission and the public is welcome.

*Fort Bridger Rendezvous: Sept. 1st-4th 2017; Labor Day weekend, Fort Bridger Historic Site, Ft. Bridger, WY. Okay….This is the biggest rendezvous of the area. Admission is $4 for people 12 and up unless you are in pre-1840 dress from head to toe. Free admission if you are! I’ve heard it said that Fort Bridger is the second largest city in Wyoming over that weekend, followed only by Cheyenne. Whether that’s true or not, I can tell you that even is HUGE! Just the area where they park their “tin can” campers is huge! There is a ton of history at the site itself between the Native Americans that used the area, Mountain Men and travelers on the Oregon Trail, and vehicle travelers on the Lincoln Highway. Food, vendors and dealers are set up on the streets outside the historic area, then Trader’s Row and primitive camps are inside. You’ll likely fill the cards on your camera.

Nationwide Rendezvous Schedule

Mountain Man Rendezvous Calendar via Crazy Crow Trading Co.’s site

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I included a few photos on this blog page. You can see more, and even purchase prints at my main web site. Here’s the link to the Mountain Men images at Teton Images.

If you like what you see here, please share the page with your friends by clicking on any of the social media icons below. MJ

 

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Comments (4)

  1. Wow, Mike. These images really work for me. Perfect production and development, exquisite detail. This may be the best and most unique collection of images I have seen and you have a bunch that are great. These would be awesome images for some of the resorts and hotels, too. Ed

  2. Hi Ed,
    I made this post to give people ideas of other opportunities around the region. I have to admit I didn’t know that whole world existed other than what I saw of them at the Memorial Day Weekend parade. (Old West Days). That event at Fort Bridger is absolutely HUGE. I doubt many of the people living in Wyoming have a clue it’s happens, either. All I can say is, “Wow”!

  3. jeff logsdon

    My father is visiting me in Colorado this summer from Ky. I would like to take him to a rendezvous, he goes often to fort de chartres rendezvous just south of St Louis. Would you give me your top 2 or 3 rendezvous choices in recommended seeing order. I can only take him to 1 and I have no idea which would be best. He is 75 and may never make it our west again. Thanks for your time, Jeff

  4. Fort Bridger (Labor Day Weekend) is the biggest around here. There’s one in Evanston a week earlier. The one near Logan, UT is always good over Memorial Day. The Camp Henry / Fort Henry Rendezvous was a good one last year. There’s one along the river in Riverton in mid-summer. Hope this helps, MJ

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