Scotts Bluff National Monument

Finally! A National Monument we can check off our list this year. We haven’t been to any yet in 2012 and I was giddy traveling to Scotts Bluff National Monument today in western Nebraska.

I have to admit, I knew nothing about this national monument before our visit. This is why we always start with the visitor’s center. They have a small, but informative interpretive center at the base of the bluffs and we absorbed it all in about 45 minutes. In addition to the region’s beauty, there is historical significance to the bluffs and Mitchell Pass, a gap between two cliffs in the hills. This pass was a key navigation landmark for all emigrants heading west on the Oregon Trail, California Trail and Mormon Trail.

Scotts Bluff was also a stop on the Pony Express from 1860-1861. One new fact I picked up was that the Pony Express only operated for 18 months. It’s such a colorful and celebrated piece of American history, I always thought it was around for longer. It turns out it was a financial disaster.

Near the visitor center are examples of covered wagons that traveled the trail west. They moved about 15 miles per day and many travelers never lived to see their final destination.

The wagons are positioned in Mitchell Pass, which lies between Eagle Rock (shown above) and Sentinel Rock.

In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps built tunnels in the bluffs and a road leading to the top. From there you can walk along trails to the bluff’s edges and see the nearby town of Gering and the North Platte River. Above, Finn is perched on the bluff overlooking the visitor center and National Parks Service complex in the valley below. At the far right, between the two peaks, is Mitchell Pass.

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