Jim Bridger’s Lingering Presence


Photo: Severino Baraldi Look and Learn

Jim Bridger was the original western mountain man to the fullest.

His proprioceptive abilities in navigating the mysterious west are legendary. Stories of his reliable ability to map out multiple mountain ranges from memory are well documented. In fact Jim had 30 years of experience in the Rocky Mountains before later becoming the main guide for the U.S. Army.

His life spanned most of the 1800s, and his story is formed of classic western frontier themes that still impact its character today.

  • A self-made man
  • Pursuit of adventure
  • Journey into the unknown
  • Survival skills put to the test
  • Full pioneer spirit
  • Able to fuse European and Native American cultures
  • Rugged individualism of one who lives by his own rules





As an ally and friend of multiple Native American tribes he did well for himself and his following to memorizing their routes. He also did well to take their tribal territories very literally. When he formed the famous Bridger Trail for perspective Montana gold miners, he knew exactly how to skirt around their lands to avoid conflict. He had three different Native American wives who also contributed to his extensive firsthand knowledge of the west.

Jim opened literal pathways for Anglo pioneers to move west; pathways that are still being used today. In fact, the movement of people moving from the United States east coast westward is one still impacting the modern world. Take declining populations from New York or Vermont and compare them to Utah, the fastest growing economy in the U.S.

The movement behind Jim Bridger’s “move out west” has become so classically romanticized that it is impacting our culture and psyches today.