The one trip I've most wanted to take since we've been in Cheyenne is north to Guernsey WY, a Historic Site preserving the Oregon Trail Ruts and Register Cliff. The trip includes old Fort Laramie, but I'm saving that one for another post. As we traveled a dirt road leading to the sites I couldn't resist one more photo of the striking wildflower called prickly poppy. This one has a busy bee at work collecting pollen.
This is the North Platte River made famous as a guide along which the Oregon Trail pioneers traveled through Nebraska and Wyoming. It is a deep, wide river in contrast to the South Platte we saw running through downtown Denver.
At last, here we are! I've seen pictures of these ruts, but actually seeing them for real was so exciting! We had a short hike up from the parking lot to the site. So much fun!
(Taken from the website: http://www.wyomingheritage.org/registerCliff.htm)
"The sandstone rocks near Guernsey tell the story of the wagon trains of emigrants headed west in the mid-1800s. While trail ruts carved by thousands of wagons dot the western landscape, most pale in comparison to those found at the Oregon Trail Ruts site in Wyoming. Here, the trail ruts are not to be missed since they are carved into the stone. Some gouges are more than four feet deep! These deep ruts result from years of wagon wear and from intentional cutting by emigrants attempting to ease the steep passage up from the level river bottom to the High Plains." The wagons would not have been able to deviate from this beaten path!
This part was particularly arduous looking. That's Mr. Keith up there in the red shirt, watching me. To think, this rock surface was probably relatively level, though bumpy, before the wagons came and wore the tracks into it.
" A short drive from the trail ruts takes visitors to Register Cliff, which rises one hundred feet above the North Platte River valley. Following a day’s journey from Fort Laramie, emigrants spent the night at Register Cliff and inscribed their names into the rock face. The earliest signatures date to the late 1820s when trappers and fur traders passed through the area, but most of the names visible today were carved during the 1840s and 1850s when the Oregon Trail was at its height. Today, visitors can walk along the cliff base to view the signatures up close." (If you click on the photo you can read the sign.) We passed by thousands of names inscribed with dates in the 1900s and 2000s. Copycats! The parts written by the Oregon Trail pioneers was covered by chain link to keep the names intact.
Register Cliff is a condominium for swallows, or "mud daubers" as I learned to call them in my childhood. Every little overhang was filled with their mud nests and the birds were constantly flying in and out. I see a face in profile on this part of the cliff. The darker spots forming the eye, the nose and the mouth are the nests. Well, I started this blog post with a bee and I'm ending it with the birds! Look for my next post about Fort Laramie.