Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Reasons to Visit the Scottsbluff National Monument

In the Panhandle of Nebraska, 20 miles east of the Wyoming border nestled just west of the twin cities of Scottsbluff and Gering, you’ll find the Scottsbluff National Monument.

The area abounds with history. The Monument is next to the Oregon Trail, and Chimney rock, the most recognized landmark on the Oregon Trail, is about 30 miles east. Pioneers, traveling on the Mormon and California Trails, as well as Pony Express riders, wrote about the sight of the Monument, the majestic marvel of nature. Wagon Train guides, and others, would walk to its top to get an immense view of what lie ahead.

It’s Beauty

According to The History of Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scotts Bluff, which is the National Monument, is but one bluff rising 800 feet above the North Platte River. Its top third of sandstone and the lower two-thirds clay is not as eroded as the rest of the area. The entire bluffs formation covers 3,480 acres of different land formations, at 4,659 feet above sea level.

The fact this geological fortress arose, in a flat plains area, is a wonder unto itself. It signaled the end of the month long journey across the mid west plains.

It’s History

The name, Scotts Bluff, is a mixture of fact and legend. Hiram Scott, and some other mountain men, was traveling on the North Platte River, in canoes, going to St. Louis. The canoes capsized and their supplies were lost or ruined, in the water.

They began walking, in the general direction toward the big bluffs, until hunger and a seriously ill Hiram Scott forced them to rest. While there Scott took a turn for the worse, and couldn’t travel, so, they needed to decide what to do with him. The others went hunting for edible roots and found recent tracks of travelers, headed in the direction of the big bluffs. They decided to try to catch up, with the travelers, and left, leaving Scott stranded.

The next year the same group of men was back at the big bluffs, stumbled upon a skeleton, and identifying marks convinced them the remains were of Hiram Scott. He had made it the 60 miles to the big bluffs, before he died. They buried him, and began calling the bluff by which he was buried Scotts Bluff.

There are other renditions to the legend, but the one above is the most popular.

The Monument

Scotts Bluff is visitor friendly. It has RV and tent camping, and you can either walk or drive up scenic routes to the top. At the base of the Monument is a museum, souvenir shop and indoor and outdoor theatres, which show historical movies of the area, at scheduled times.

You can also see covered wagons and walk the Oregon Trail Pathway to see the actual trail.

Earl Harris: The History of Scotts Bluff National Monument: nsp.gov

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