Naming the Cache la Poudre River

The Cache la Poudre in mid-summer

The Fall of 1836 brought a group of French trappers and traders, all employees of John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company, into Larimer County loaded down with a wagon train filled with supplies. They camped for the night on the south side of a river on their way to a rendezvous at the Green River in Wyoming. Their route was to cross the Big Thompson, cross the Poudre, and then head north across the Laramie Plains before going towards Green River.

They made their way along a valley south of LaPorte, got to the north side of what is today called Bingham Hill. It was too late in the day to ford the river, so they camped for the night. That night a severe early snowstorm blew through the area. The wagon train was stuck for over a week. When it was decided that they could proceed, the snow was deep. The load had to be lightened.

The leader of the party was a French-Canadian named Antoine Janis, father of the man who would later become the area's first white settler. He gave orders to dig a large pit into which everything that could be spared on the trip would be buried. It was like a cellar, except larger. After the pit was dug, they lined it with pine boughs, cotton willow clumps, and animal skins. Among the supplies that were carefully buried in the pit, were several hundred pounds of gunpowder. The pit was filled back up with the dirt, and a large fire was burned on top to conceal all traces of the pit from the Indians. The French speaking trappers called this spot Cache la Poudre, "the hiding place of the powder." The nearby river took on that name.

After a period of several months, the trappers returned to the valley. They located the successfully concealed "cache" and removed their supplies. Nothing was lost, nothing remained to show that anyone had ever been there. The valley and the Cache la Poudre went back to sleep for almost another 10 years.

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