Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday in Wyoming -- April 29, 2015

The Oregon Trail -- Part 5

One of the major landmarks along the Oregon Trail was Independence Rock, a mammoth outcropping of granite that covers 24 acres.  As you can see, it's now a Wyoming State Historic Site.  (Question: does the sign remind you of a wagon on its side?)

First named by fur traders who were camped in the area on July 4, 1824, Independence Rock had a special significance for pioneers on the Oregon Trail.  They knew that if they hadn't reached this milestone by Independence Day, they risked being caught in snowstorms before they reached their destination.

As was the case with Register Cliffs further east in Wyoming, Independence Rock was a place for emigrants to carve their names and leave messages.  Unlike Register Cliff, which is composed of softer stone that made inscriptions relatively easy, the granite of Independence Rock meant pioneers had a harder time inscribing anything on it.

Many of the inscriptions that are still visible are more recent than the Oregon Trail, and the plaques were added during the twentieth century.  Now the site is protected by a fence to prevent further damage.

Although difficult to read, this sign provides more information about what a Jesuit missionary called "The Great Record of the Desert."

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