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Following the Pioneer Trails – Register Cliff, Wyoming

Posted by on October 5, 2013

 

Pioneer travel

Emigrants on the Oregon Trail

Emigrants on the Oregon Trail

After the emigrants left Fort Laramie they made their way to the next landmark called Register Cliff, which is located near the town now called Guernsey, WY.  They made several risky river crossings as they made their way across the grasslands.  Along side this sandstone Cliff formation, the wagons would stop, rest themselves and their animals.

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While they lingered here, many would sign/carve their names in the rock. They wrote the year, and sometimes the city or state they were coming from.  Although there are 100’s of autographs on the landmarks in Wyoming there was never a reference to this ritual in any of the diaries found. 

I posted a short video of Charles Kuralt’s visit to this location on my earlier post entitled “Cruising to South Dakota”. I’ll likely post a video of my own soon about the historical pioneer landmarks we saw and perhaps transmit through video the emotional reaction to all this history.


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This rock is a softer sandstone substance and over the decades many of the names have all but disappeared. You can see where there was a name but it’s not clear enough to read. Parts of the rock have been fenced off to protect some of the the names that are still readable.

So many people over recent years have carved their names in this rock that it is hard to actually find the original pioneer names. A bit heartbreaking to see a pioneer’s autograph from 1859 partially overtaken by someone who signed their name in 1996 for example. Even in the area of the small cemetery we observed names from 2003 carved very large stating they were from California, or Florida etc. A bit disrespectful I think.

The Cemetery at the base of Register Cliffs. Most of the headstones are broken or missing.

The Cemetery at the base of Register Cliffs. Most of the headstones are broken or missing.

 

 

Two miles west, the trail continues. It is here that you can take a short hike up a paved path to the location of the trail. THE OREGON TRAIL RUTS, now a Registered National Historic Landmark, is where you can see where the trail ran through an area of granite rocks and soft sandstone. The wagon wheels cut through the solid rock in this area creating ruts that were engraved in the stone. It is an indelible mark lasting all these years for visitors to see. Just look at this area and you can visualize the man and beast, with such will and determination, they continued their treks to their prospective destinations despite unimaginable hardships. Imagine the straining of the teams of oxen, mules and heavy draft horses drawing wagons for Oregon pioneers. Also on this part of the trail were the Mormon companies, inspired by religious fervor, pulled or pushed handcarts as they followed Brigham Young to the Valley of the Salt Lake. Later the same trail was followed by a different group of driven people rushing to California with gold fever.

 

 

The Ruts from the Wagons and Carts along the Trail

The Ruts from the Wagons and Carts along the Trail

 

 

Wagon Ruts in the sandstone

Wagon Ruts in the sandstone

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One of the  Pony Express stops was here at Register Cliff.

One of the Pony Express stops was here at Register Cliff.

 

From Register Cliff there is a mile long wall of Gray rock cliffs to the East.

From Register Cliff there is a mile long wall of Gray rock cliffs to the East.

 

 

The grasslands leading up to Register Cliff area

The grasslands leading up to Register Cliff area

View of Guernsey from Register Cliffs

View of Guernsey from Register Cliffs

See you a little further down the trail at Independence Rock, Wyoming our next stop.

 

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