Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Scotts Bluff National Monument

September 17 was a busy day on our trip west. After visiting the Pony Express station in Gothenburg, Nebraska, and Chimney Rock, near the town of Bayard, Nebraska, we drove on to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where we had a motel reservation for that night. After checking into the motel, we drove to the Scotts Bluff National Monument. 

A sign at the National Monument says that emigrants were thrilled at the sight of the bluffs, rising some 800 feet above the valley floor, after the many weeks of plodding across the plains. But the landmark was also a barrier. There were badlands on the north side of the bluffs that were impassible for wagons, and deep ravines ahead barred the way to Mitchell Pass. It took engineering assistance from the U. S. Army to open the Oregon Trail through Mitchell Pass in 1851. 

The sign pictured above is hard to read in the photo, but it gives you an idea of how the bluffs appeared to the travelers. South Bluff is on the left of Mitchell Pass, and Scotts Bluff is on the right.
Scotts Bluff

Lucy Foster Sexton, an emigrant on the Oregon Trail, wrote in her journal on June 13, 1849, "Made about 10 miles; halted about noon at Scotch [Scotts] bluffs,...a splendid pile of bluffs, probably nearly 400 feet in height, standing in an isolated position; the various views presented as we passed along our route were of large castles with their attendant offices, chapels, etc., magnificently grand, beyond any of the puny works of mortal man..."

Mitchell Pass, with Sentinel Rock on the left and Eagle Rock on the right

A Conestoga wagon with Eagle Rock in the background

Conestoga wagons were built with the floor curved upward to prevent the contents from tipping and shifting. The average size was 18 feet long, 11 feet high, and 4 feet in width. They could carry up to 12,000 pounds (5,400 kg) of cargo.


Out on the prairie, wagons spread out to avoid the dust stirred up by wagons in front. But, here at Mitchell Pass, there was a difficult bottleneck that forced the wagons to squeeze through narrow ravines in single file. Deep ruts, traces of which remain today, more than a century later, were gradually worn deep into the soft sandstone.

The trail that the wagons followed over Mitchell Pass
Dome Rock, a rock formation to the left of South Bluff

By the time we arrived at Scotts Bluff National Monument that evening, the Visitor Center was closed, as was the road to the summit. We explored as much as we could, then decided we'd just have to come back in the morning to drive to the summit before moving on to other destinations on our trip.

Back in the town of Scottsbluff that evening, we were treated to the sight of a beautiful sunset.


  1. HI Linda What a wonderful isolated landscape yet so beautiful. grat post and lovely sunset at the end. Looking forward to next instalement.

  2. Beautiful photos, Linda!
    Greetings, RW & SK

  3. I love coming here to visit with you, Linda. Not only are your photos beautiful, but you also include so much history with them. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. P.S....I just noticed this morning that you had the place on the sidebar where I could click to follow you. Consider it done...and I am sorry I didn't do it sooner. :)

  5. traveling that way back then must have been SO difficult. my bones and butt aches with the thought... determined settlers, for sure... beautiful country, though.

  6. Your photos are really beautiful and make me want to visit the area. The third one down with the old fence is superb! Imagining the difficulties of navigating the land by wagons and mules (or whatever) makes me glad I was born in this century. And the poor animals. Thank you for sharing more of your trip and giving so much of the history. Fascinating!

  7. i will for sure tell the hubby about needing to c this stop. luv those wagons. great sunset. ( ;

  8. I just love the quote by Lucy Foster Sexton, especially the "puny works of man" part. Love the wagons, too. Great post!
    Have a great day!

  9. Thanks for taking us along with you. Although I enjoyed your wonderful pictures, I'm afraid this is one more place we're going to add to our 'to visit' list!

  10. Looks like you had a fabulous time visiting Scotts Bluff… Can you imagine what the pioneers endured while riding those wagons west back then? Yipes!!!!! Beautiful set of photos.


  11. They toiled through some difficult but beautiful country!

  12. Oh how lovely. Nice your able to travel plus the money to do it all.

    Great pictures. I also like the covered wagon #1 and #2.

  13. I can't even begin to imagine what life must have been like for those early people.We think we have a hard when we sit in an air-conditioned car all day. The you show scenes are beautiful.

  14. Great post and lovely photos, Linda.

  15. Loved your pics Linda and all the info you very beautiful! Can't imagine traveling for months on end through the rough, wild west in one of those wagons!

  16. Thanks for sharing- we have been through Scott's Bluff, but didn't stopover or even think about going to the monument. Sad to have missed it!

  17. Hi Linda! I love your travelogue. The comments by Miss Lucy are so precious, thinking of the bluffs as offices and chapels. What a lovely imagination! And that wagon really helps put the bluffs into perspective.

    Have a good weekend!

  18. Again, amazing shots. And that city scene with the sunset is great!

    Mersad Donko Photography

  19. What a wonderful glimpse of life back then. I'm sure it was exciting and I'm just as sure that I wouldn't have been brave enough to try it!


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