I've wanted to see this area of Nebraska for years. We were foiled in our attempts to go through here 5 years ago by bad roads and snow, but we finally made it! Our opinion of Nebraska has changed. It's not just miles and miles of prairie! The Scottsbluff and Gering area is beyond beautiful, and has such history to boot! If you are an Oregon Trail student at all, this is what you'd want to see. I've included lots of pictures here — it was too difficult to choose! Here we are at the entrance to the monument, adjacent to the town of Gering.
We were delighted to see that we could drive to the very top of the bluffs, 1 1/2 miles. There was a hiking trail, too, but it looked too much of a challenge for these 2 old coots. What a monumental task it must have been to construct this road and 3 tunnels. This is the backside of the monolith you see from the visitor center, Eagle Rock.
Here I am on the very top of the bluffs. That is a huge cliff behind me, overlooking the towns below. These gorgeous bluffs are sandstone and clay.
Here's another view looking down onto the towns of Scottsbluff and Gering.
(Click to enlarge for a better view.)
From this vantage point we are looking down onto the visitor center and ranger station. You can see the road leading to the top of the bluffs, going through the tunnel in picture #2.
Back down to lower ground we found the path leading to an actual section of the Oregon Trail. The pioneers passed between two sections of the bluffs, a narrow trail that took them back down towards the Platte River Valley. This is a Conestoga wagon, and the bluff in the background is Eagle Rock, the most photographed and well-known part of Scotts Bluffs.
Another view of Eagle Rock, with an old Studebaker wagon. It's amazing to think that we were able to drive through a tunnel carved in the backside of this promontory!
Here is Mr. Keith standing on part of the actual Oregon Trail! In this section the wagons had to follow single file between the outcroppings, thus leaving a clear trail.
Two old coots on another part of the trail, with Eagle Rock again in the background. We met a friendly couple at this viewpoint who were willing to get us both in the picture while we did the same for them. It's not quite tourist season so we didn't have any crowds to dodge.
The most famous landmark for Oregon Trail pioneers was Chimney Rock. The gal at the visitor center told us that it was mentioned more than any other marker in the diaries left by travelers. This rocky phenomenon is 20 miles east of Scotts Bluff and is visible from there. I could go much more into the history of these places, but then my blog would be a book! Oddly, there is a small visitor center here, not the extensive facility we found at Scotts Bluff. I like this photo with the old fence and the yucca plants in the foreground.
This is as close as we could get to the rock. I was hoping for a trail leading right up to it, but there was a gully and a fence indicating 'no tresspassing'! I imagine that keeps Chimney Rock in the pristine state it was when all those wagon trains passed by so long ago. I'll never forget the awesome time we had on this day, seeing all this beauty and thinking about the thousands and thousands of hopeful, brave and hardy folks who went this way. Had we lived in that time I wonder if we would have joined them!