For thousands of years, Scotts Bluff has served as a landmark. Ten thousand years ago, the earliest nomadic Native American hunters camped here on the way to the North Platte River. In the 1820s, fur trappers set up trading posts in the area, and in the 1840s, pioneers on the old Oregon Trail saw the 800-foot tall formations after trekking across monotonously flat grasslands for six to eight weeks. Soon thereafter, gold-seekers on their way to California, military expeditions, missionaries, and Pony Express riders passed this way. Today, visitors can not only admire the sandstone and clay bluff, but also drive or hike to the top for an outstanding view.
Begin your visit in the Visitor Center where you’ll find exhibits on the geologic and human history of the area, an audiovisual program, and park rangers to answer your questions. According to legend, Scotts Bluff was named for Hiram Scott, an employee of the American Fur Company who died near the bluffs. There are various accounts of his tragic death, but the main story is that this young man was traveling with other company employees in 1828, but was left behind because he grew too sick to ride or walk. Some stories say Mr. Scott crawled 60 miles through the wilderness in an attempt to catch up with his party before he finally starved to death. The bones and skull of a human were found the following spring, and the bluffs have borne his name ever since.
You can reach the top of the bluff by driving the paved Summit Road or by hiking the Saddle Rock Trail. Both routes are 1.6 miles long. Self-guiding trails on the summit of the bluff lead from the parking area to two overlooks. There’s also a flat trail that leaves from the Visitor Center from which you can take great photos of the bluffs. Parts of the original road traveled by pioneers and their covered wagons are still visible.
IF YOU GO:
Scotts Bluff National Monument
190276 Old Oregon Trail Rd.
Gering, Nebraska 69341
Phone: (308) 436-4340
Scotts Bluff – National Park Service
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com