• Climbers on Morning Glory Spire

    City Of Rocks

    National Reserve Idaho

Emigrant Diary Entries

Some emigrants documented their experiences along the trails west in diaries. The following are diary entries about passing through City of Rocks:

 

"August 3. Took another cutoff this week called Sublets. Struck Raft River; from thence to Swamp Creek. Passed some beautiful scenery, high cliffs of rocks resembling old ruins or dilapidated buildings.

- Sallie Hester - August 3, 1849

"Another 2 miles enter a rocky dell some 4 miles long by a winding road running among the most grotesque rocks standing out singly in the valley, or grouped fantastically together. There were sphynxes and statues of every size, and haystacks and wigwams and castles, and towers, and pyramids and cones and projecting turrets and canopies, and leaning columns, and so on throughout a thousand varieties of fantastic shapes."

- Bernard J. Reid - August 11, 1849

"Last eve went to the City rocks. They are at the junction of the California & Salt Lake roads. They are white & about 300 ft high running up to a peak. They are composed of a substance resembling salts & are in a state of decomposition. A few more years & then will be leveled with the ground. They look at a distance like a ruined city."

- Lucena Parsons - April 23, 1850

"There were so many rocks both here and where we camped last night that might answer the description and name, we had no little difficulty for a time in determinging which was Steeple Rock. The last two rocks, however, as we passed out of the valley, seemed pre-eminently entitled to the appellation. They rise in a cone-like form from the bottom of the valley to a height of from 400 to 600 feet; they are round and quite regular in form tapering gradually to a point. Opposite these two rocks the Salt Lake road comes in through another valley some eight miles from where we first saw it."

- Lorenzo Sawyer - June 22, 1850

"..the road takes a west course through a deep gorge, called Pyramid Valley, displaying to the traveler scenery of the most wild and majestic character. Three miles within the gorge, and immense granite boulder resembling in the distance some old dilapidated castle and on which hundreds of names are inscribed, rises up full a hundred feet in height, in the shade of which we halted for our mid-day meal. A clear mountain rivulet was coursing its way down a ravine a few yards distant."

- James Bennett - August 14, 1850

"During the forenoon we passed through a stone village composed of huge, isolated rocks of various and singular shapes, some resembling cottages, others steeples and domes. It is called the 'City of Rocks', but I think the name 'Pyramid City' more suitable. Is is a sublime, strange, and wonderful scene-one of nature's most interesting works. The Salt Lake road, which turned off between Dry Sandy and Little Sandy, and which we passed on the twenty-sixth day of June, rejoins our road at this point."

- Margaret Frink - July 17, 1850

"July 13. Had a nice shower of rain to-day, which, greatly to our liking, settled the dust, and it has cleared off cool and pleasant. We are in camp to-night at Steeple Rock. There are a great many names on the rocks. Distance traveled, eighteen miles."

- Francis Sawyer - July 13, 1852

"After a few miles we entered the mountains and in 9 1/2 miles from last camp came to Steeple rocks. Which are large while curiously shaped rocks scattered over a surface of several acres. Some of them run up to a point like the steeple of a church, many names are painted on their sides one mile from these rocks we came to where the Salt Lake road intersects and now all three roads are one again."

- James Berry Brown - August 21, 1859

"This City is walled in on every side with towering granite mountains, some peaks shooting athwart the sky like towering domes. While hundreds of piles, peaks, steeples and domes, of all shapes possible in the distance looking like an old dilapidated City"

- Dr. John Hudson Wayman - July 12, 1852

"Emerging from the pass we came into what is known as Pyramid Circle. There was perhaps an acre of partially level land with a good sized stream flowing through it. On this level, and the hills which encircle it, were the most beautiful and wonderful white rocks that we ever saw. This is known as the City rocks and certainly bears a striking resemblance to a city. To be sure it was a good deal out of the usual, for the large and small houses were curiously intermingled and set at all angles but it only made the place the more charming. There was everything one could imagine from a dog house to a church and courthouse. While the stock was being cared for the women and children wandered off to enjoy the sights of the city."

- Helen Carpenter - August 18, 1857

Did You Know?

Replica of covered wagon.

Beginning in 1843, City of Rocks was a landmark for emigrants on the California Trail. At the height of emigration, in 1852, some 52,000 people passed through City of Rocks on the way to California goldfields. Today, City of Rocks National Reserve protects over 6 miles of this historic trail.