Mountain Men Rendezvous / Buckskinning Events
Donald Mackenzie, representing the North West Company, held a Rendezvous in the Boise River Valley in 1819. The rendezvous system was later implemented by William Henry Ashley of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, whose company representatives would haul supplies to specific mountain locations in the spring, engage in trading with trappers, and bring pelts back to communities on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers , like St. Louis, in the fall.
Ashley sold his business to the outfit of Jackson and Sublette. He continued to earn revenue by selling that firm their supplies. This system of rendezvous with trappers continued when other firms, particularly the American Fur Company owned by John Jacob Astor, who became the first self-made millionaire in North America, largely due to his start in the fur trade, took over.
The annual rendezvous was often held at Horse Creek on the Green River, now called the Upper Green River Rendezvous Site, near present-day Pinedale, Wyoming.
By the mid-1830s, it attracted 450-500 men annually, essentially all the American trappers and traders working in the Rockies, as well as numerous Native Americans.
In the late 1830s, the Canadian-based Hudson's Bay Company instituted a policy to destroy the American fur trade. The HBC's annual Snake River Expedition was transformed to a trading enterprise.
Beginning in 1834, it visited the American Rendezvous to buy furs at low prices. The HBC was able to offer manufactured trade goods at prices far below that with which American fur companies could compete.
Combined with a decline in demand for and supply of beaver, by 1840 the HBC had effectively destroyed the American system. The last rendezvous was held in 1840. By 1841 the American Fur Company and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were in ruins.
By 1846 only some 50 American trappers still worked in the Snake River country, compared to 500-600 in 1826. Soon after the strategic victory by the HBC, the Snake River route was used for emigrants as the Oregon Trail, which brought a new form of competition. Former trappers earned money as guides or hunters for the emigrant parties.
A second fur trading and supply center grew up in Taos in what is today New Mexico. This trade attracted numerous French Americans from Louisiana and some French Canadian trappers, in addition to Anglo-Americans.
Trappers and traders in the Southwest covered territory that was generally inaccessible to the large fur companies. It included parts of New Mexico, Nevada, California and central and southern Utah.
After the short-lived American Pacific Fur Company was sold, the British controlled the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest, under first the North West Company and then the Hudson's Bay Company.
To prevent American fur traders from competing, the British companies adopted a policy of destroying fur resources west of the Rocky Mountains, especially in the upper Snake River country. After the Hudson's Bay Company took over operations in the Pacific Northwest in 1821, the Snake River country was rapidly trapped out.
Historical reenactment of the dress and lifestyle of a mountain man, sometimes known as buckskinning, allows people to recreate aspects of this historical period.
Today's Rocky Mountain Rendezvous and other reenacted events are both history-oriented and social occasions.
Some modern men continue to choose a lifestyle similar to that of historical mountain men. They may live and roam in the mountains of the west or in the swamps of the southern United States.
Experience living history at its best with approximately 125 tents and teepees set up for this annual Western heritage event. Spend the weekend at Woolaroc in Bartlesville and join participants from all over the United States as they recreate the rugged pioneer life of the men and women who trapped and traded throughout 1820s to 1840s-era Indian Territory.
Join the fun at the Kennedy Ranch, located outside Cascade, Idaho for the 32nd Annual Idaho Free Trappers Backwoods Rendezvous. Spectators are welcome Friday and Saturday from noon-5 p.m.