The fur industry ruled the northwest at the beginning of the 19th century; however, much of the interior of the western United States remained a mystery. The Lewis and Clark expedition constituted the only organized exploration, a fact which frustrated John Jacob Aster, owner of the Pacific Fur Company. Determined to expand his fur empire, Astor sent companies of men, called Astorians, to scout a route between Astoria, Oregon and St. Louis.
In 1811, Astor appointed Wilson Price Hunt head of an expedition to find an overland route. After leaving Missouri River, Hunt's party traveled over 2,000 miles westward in seven months. Though planning to use the northern route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Hunt decided to head south and travel across northern Wyoming to avoid the Blackfeet.
The party entered Wyoming in August. On the 18th, while still in eastern Wyoming, Hunt wrote in his diary, "we found it necessary to leave the mountains and turn back toward the broken countryside. When we had pitched camp ... Mr. McKenzi and I scaled the nearby slopes. Our view extended in all directions. In the west we saw far off some mountains that appeared white in several spots, and we assumed that this was the snow-covered Big Horn [Range]. Below the peaks, herds of buffalo ran over the plans." The Astorians finally reached
the Pacific Coast in February 1812 after losing a man and many supplies trying to navigate the Snake River in Idaho.