|Location||60 mi (97 km) SW of Casper on WYO 220, Natrona County, Wyoming|
|Area||170 acres (69 ha)|
|NRHP reference No.||66000757|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||January 20, 1961|
Independence Rock is a large granite rock, approximately 130 feet (40 m) high, 1,900 feet (580 m) long, and 850 feet (260 m) wide, which is in southwestern Natrona County, Wyoming along Wyoming Highway 220. During the middle of the 19th century, it formed a prominent and well-known landmark on the Oregon, Mormon, and California emigrant trails. Many of these emigrants carved their names on it, and it was described by early missionary and explorer Father Pierre-Jean De Smet in 1840 as the Register of the Desert. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 20, 1961 and is now part of Independence Rock State Historic Site, owned and operated by the state of Wyoming.
The rock is a large rounded monolith of Archean granite typical of the surrounding region and is an isolated peak at the southeast end of the Granite Mountains. Its appearance is somewhat like the rounded Enchanted Rock of Texas or Uluru in Australia (formerly known as Ayers Rock), although smaller in size. It is located in the high plateau region of central Wyoming, north of the Sentinel Rocks ridge and adjacent to the Sweetwater River. 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Muddy Gap and 60 miles (97 km) south-west of Casper.It is accessible from a rest area on Wyoming Highway 220, approximately
The rock derives its name from the fact that it lies directly along the route of the Emigrant Trail. Pioneering wagon parties bound for Oregon or California usually left the Missouri River in the early spring and hoped to reach the rock by July 4 (Independence Day in the United States), in order to reach their destinations before the first mountain snowfalls. John C. Frémont camped a mile below this site on August 1, 1843 and made this entry in the journal of his 1843-'44 expedition:
Everywhere within six or eight feet of the ground, where the surface is sufficiently smooth, and in some places sixty or eighty feet above, the rock is inscribed with the names of travelers. Many a name famous in the history of this country, and some well known to science, are to be found among those of traders and travelers.
Fremont carved a large cross into the rock monolith, which was blasted off the rock on July 4, 1847 by hundreds of California and Oregon emigrants who had gathered on the site.Some Protestants considered the cross to be a symbol of the Pope and Catholicism. John Frémont was actually a member of the United States Episcopal Church.
On July 4, 1862, Independence Rock was the site of Wyoming's first Masonic Lodge meeting.
The Oregon Trail was a 2,170-mile (3,490 km) east-west, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail in the United States that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of what is now the state of Kansas and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the current states of Idaho and Oregon.
The Black Rock Desert is a semi-arid region of lava beds and playa, or alkali flats, situated in the Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area, a silt playa 100 miles (160 km) north of Reno, Nevada that encompasses more than 300,000 acres (120,000 ha) of land and contains more than 120 miles (200 km) of historic trails. It is in the northern Nevada section of the Great Basin with a lakebed that is a dry remnant of Pleistocene Lake Lahontan.
Scotts Bluff National Monument is located west of the City of Gering in western Nebraska, United States. This National Park Service site protects over 3,000 acres of historic overland trail remnants, mixed-grass prairie, rugged badlands, towering bluffs and riparian area along the North Platte River. The park boasts over 100,000 annual visitors.
South Pass is the collective term for two mountain passes on the Continental Divide, in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Wyoming. The passes are located in a broad low region, 35 miles (56 km) wide, between the Wind River Range to the north and the Oregon Buttes and Great Divide Basin to the south, in southwestern Fremont County, approximately 35 miles (56 km) SSW of Lander. South Pass is the lowest point on the Continental Divide between the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains. The passes furnish a natural crossing point of the Rockies. The historic pass became the route for emigrants on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails to the West during the 19th century. It was designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark on January 20, 1961.
The Mormon Trail is the 1,300-mile (2,100 km) long route from Illinois to Utah that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveled for 3 months. Today, the Mormon Trail is a part of the United States National Trails System, known as the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.
The Granite Mountains are a short subrange of the Rocky Mountains in central Wyoming of the United States. The range runs approximately 100 mi (160 km) E-W along the south side of the Shoshone Basin, and north of the Sweetwater River, in eastern Fremont County and western Natrona County. The highest point is McIntosh Peak at 8,058 feet (2,456 m). Independence Rock is at the east end of the range, and Split Rock was a prominent landmark on the Oregon Trail. The region is rich in uranium and other mineral deposits.
The Sweetwater River is a 238-mile (383 km) long tributary of the North Platte River, in the U.S. state of Wyoming. As a part of the Mississippi River system, its waters eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico.
The California Trail was an emigrant trail of about 1,600 mi (2,600 km) across the western half of the North American continent from Missouri River towns to what is now the state of California. After it was established, the first half of the California Trail followed the same corridor of networked river valley trails as the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail, namely the valleys of the Platte, North Platte, and Sweetwater rivers to Wyoming. The trail has several splits and cutoffs for alternative routes around major landforms and to different destinations, with a combined length of over 5,000 mi (8,000 km).
The City of Rocks National Reserve, also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a United States National Reserve and state park in south-central Idaho, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the border with Utah. It is widely known for its enormous granite rock formations and excellent rock climbing.
Chimney Rock is a prominent geological rock formation in Morrill County in western Nebraska. Rising nearly 300 feet (91 m) above the surrounding North Platte River valley, the peak of Chimney Rock is 4,228 feet (1,289 m) above sea level. The formation served as a landmark along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail during the mid-19th century. The trails ran along the north side of the rock, which remains a visible landmark for modern travelers along U.S. Route 26 and Nebraska Highway 92.
Fort Laramie was a significant 19th-century trading post, diplomatic site, and military installation located at the confluence of the Laramie and the North Platte rivers. They joined in the upper Platte River Valley in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Wyoming. The fort was founded as a private trading post in the 1830s to service the overland fur trade; in 1849, it was purchased by the United States Army. It was located east of the long climb leading to the best and lowest crossing point of the Rocky Mountains at South Pass and became a popular stopping point for migrants on the Oregon Trail. Along with Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River, the trading post and its supporting industries and businesses were the most significant economic hub of commerce in the region.
The path followed by the Oregon Trail, California Trail and Mormon Trail spans 400 miles (640 km) through the U.S. state of Wyoming. The trail entered from Nebraska on the eastern border of the state near the present day town of Torrington and exited on the western border near the towns of Cokeville and Afton. An estimated 350,000 to 400,000 settlers traveled on the trail through Wyoming between 1841 and 1868. All three trails follow the same path through most of the state. The Mormon Trail splits at Fort Bridger and enters Utah, while the Oregon and California Trails continue to Idaho.
Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site is a preserved site of wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail on the North Platte River, about 0.5 miles south of Guernsey, Wyoming. The Oregon Trail here was winding up towards South Pass. Here, wagon wheels, draft animals, and people wore down the trail into a sandstone ridge about two to six feet, during its heavy usage from 1841–1869. The half-mile stretch is "unsurpassed" and is the best-preserved set of Oregon Trail ruts anywhere along its former length.
The Great Platte River Road was a major overland travel corridor approximately following the course of the Platte River in present-day Nebraska and Wyoming that was shared by several popular emigrant trails during the 19th century, including the Trapper's Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the California Trail, the Pony Express route, and the military road connecting Fort Leavenworth and Fort Laramie. The road, which extended nearly 800 miles (1,300 km) from the Second Fort Kearny to Fort Laramie, was utilized primarily from 1841 to 1866. In modern times it is often regarded as a sort of superhighway of its era, and has been referred to as "the grand corridor of America's westward expansion".
Register Cliff is a sandstone cliff and featured key navigational landmark prominently listed in the 19th century guidebooks about the Oregon Trail, and a place where many emigrants chiseled the names of their families on the soft stones of the cliff — it was one of the key checkpoint landmarks for parties heading west along the Platte River valley west of Fort John, Wyoming which allowed travelers to verify they were on the correct path up to South Pass and not moving into impassable mountain terrains—geographically, it is on the eastern ascent of the Continental divide leading upward out of the great plains in the east of the U.S. state of Wyoming. It is notable as a historic landmark for 'registering' hundreds of emigrants on the Oregon Trail who came to follow custom and inscribed their names on its rocks during the western migrations of the 19th century. An estimated 500,000 emigrants used these trails from 1843–1869, with up to one-tenth dying along the way, usually due to disease.
Names Hill is a bluff located on the bank of the Green River in the U.S. state of Wyoming, where travelers on the Oregon and California trails carved their names into the rock. It is one of three notable "recording areas" along the emigrant trails in Wyoming along with Register Cliff and Independence Rock. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 16, 1969.
The Overland Trail was a stagecoach and wagon trail in the American West during the 19th century. While portions of the route had been used by explorers and trappers since the 1820s, the Overland Trail was most heavily used in the 1860s as a route alternative to the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails through central Wyoming. The Overland Trail was famously used by the Overland Stage Company owned by Ben Holladay to run mail and passengers to Salt Lake City, Utah, via stagecoaches in the early 1860s. Starting from Atchison, Kansas, the trail descended into Colorado before looping back up to southern Wyoming and rejoining the Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger. The stage line operated until 1869 when the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad eliminated the need for mail service via Thais' stagecoach.
In the American Old West, overland trails were built by pioneers and immigrants throughout the 19th century and especially between 1829 and 1870 as an alternative to sea and railroad transport. These immigrants began to help colonize much of North America west of the Great Plains as part of the mass overland migrations of the mid-19th century. Settlers emigrating from the eastern United States were spurred by various motives, among them religious persecution and economic incentives, to move to destinations in the far west via routes including the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail. After the end of the Mexican–American War in 1849, vast new American conquests again enticed mass immigration. Legislation like the Donation Land Claim Act and significant events like the California Gold Rush further lured people to travel overland to the west.
The historic 2,170-mile (3,490 km) Oregon Trail connected various towns along the Missouri River to Oregon's Willamette Valley. It was used during the 19th century by Great Plains pioneers who were seeking fertile land in the West and North.
Split Rock, also known as Twin Peaks, is a mountain in the Granite Mountains of central Wyoming. The peak has an elevation of 7,305 feet (2,227 m), and is located about 10 miles (16 km) north of the Muddy Gap junction between Casper and Rawlins. The mountain is distinctive for a deep V-shaped cleft dividing its summit. The mountain was a prominent landmark on the Oregon Trail and other early settlement routes in the region, which crossed a low rise at the eastern end of the range between Casper and the North Platte River valley and the Sweetwater River.
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