Rising 800 feet above the plains in the Nebraska panhandle, Scotts Bluff served as a prominent landmark for early travelers. Scotts Bluff National Monument's massive promontory is a cross-section of high plains that formed in the continent's interior after the uplifting of the Rocky Mountains.
©National Park Service
Scotts Bluff is an easy-to-spot landmark, making it
important to early travelers in the West.
Four or five million years ago, the land began to erode at a relatively fast rate, but certain concretions, in isolated patches near the surface, were more durable than the surrounding materials. This protective top, known as caprock, has kept Scotts Bluff from eroding away. Fossils of huge turtles, rhinoceri, camels, and mammoths imbedded in the bluff attest to the rich diversity of animal life once found here.
Plains hunters camped in the vicinity as far back as 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. Indians called the craggy bluff Me-a-pa-te, meaning "hill that is hard to go around."
In the early 1800s, fur traders began to pass by the monument. The bluff is named after a fur trader named Hiram Scott, whose skeleton was discovered nearby in 1828. The first wagons took the overland route that would become known as the Oregon Trail in 1843. Thousands made their way past Scotts Bluff, some pausing to carve their names into the soft sandstone.
The 2,998-acre monument includes a visitor center, museum complex, and a short segment of the actual Oregon Trail.
Scotts Bluff National Monument Information
Address: Three miles west of Gering, NE, on Old Oregon Trail (State Highway 92 West)
Hours of Operation:
- Open daily
- Closed on Christmas and New Year's Day
- Hours vary according to season
Admission: $5 per car or $3 per person
Learn about these other national monuments:
Find out more about travel destinations in North America:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.