Martin’s Cove: Mormon Trail Site

Alcova, Wyoming

Martin’s Cove is a historic site along the Mormon Trail located about 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Casper, Wyoming. Adjacent to the Sweetwater River, Martin’s Cove is a nook in the side of the Granite Mountains that provided shelter for the Martin handcart company and their rescuers in the fall of 1856. The site includes a visitors’ center with artwork, artifacts, and exhibits about the larger Latter-day Saint migration and history of the site. Throughout the historic site, monuments, memorials, and sculptures commemorate the rescue. A trail loop leads to the eastern portion of the cove. Visitors may also hike a trail that leads to Devil’s Gate and explore the Sun Ranch at Devil’s Gate, a National Historic Landmark interpreting the homestead and cattle ranch that began on the site in 1872. For information about planning a visit to Martin’s Cove, click or tap here

From November 4 to 9, 1856, the Martin handcart company, about 500 Latter-day Saint emigrants from the British Isles, made camp in the cove because the cold wind and snow made it too dangerous to proceed to their destination in Salt Lake City about 330 miles (530 kilometers) away. A few days prior to their arrival at the cove, they were met by a small rescue party with food, supplies, and wagons that President Brigham Young had sent from Salt Lake City. On November 4, the company and rescuers forded the bitterly cold Sweetwater River and set up their tents in the place that would later be called Martin’s Cove. Over the next five days, the company waited for additional wagons to transport the sick and infirm. Members of the Hunt and Hodgetts wagon companies, traveling just behind the Martin company, emptied their wagons of provisions to make space for more people.  Many handcarts were left behind, and the travelers in the worst condition rode in wagons. By November 9, preparations were made, and the weather had warmed enough for travel to continue. The survivors reached Salt Lake City on November 30, where they received donated provisions from local Relief Society organizations and were placed in warm homes. 

A number of the company died in Martin’s Cove but many more were rescued. Today people visit the cove as a place of reverence, remembrance, and gratitude. During summer months, Latter-day Saints participate in trek reenactments. For information about organizing a trek for a family or Church group at this historic site, click or tap here.

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