Scotts Bluff
Administrative History
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Mission 66 and Special Events


The second era of development at Scotts Bluff National Monument came with implementation of the "MISSION 66" program in the mid-1950s. This program was conceived to improve and upgrade each NPS unit in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Service in 1966. Planning for the monument's MISSION 66 program was accomplished between 1955 and 1956 under Superintendent Frank H. Anderson. The majority of construction and land acquisition was completed in the late 1950s under the guidance of Superintendent John W. Henneberger Because the first era of development during the Depression resulted in the establishment of the basic infrastructure, the monument did not require a major, prolonged building effort. Thus, Scotts Bluff was one of the few NPS units to complete its MISSION 66 improvement program during the first half of the decade-long effort.

According to former Superintendent John Henneberger, Midwest Regional Director Howard Baker was also instrumental in the success of the MISSION 66 developments at the monument:

Howard Baker [deserves] some. . . credit for the MISSION 66 developments. He had a long history with Scotts Bluff from at least 1937 to 1964. He probably had more influence on Scotts Bluff planning and development than anyone else; including Horace Albright, who I guess pretty much set the development where it is today. [1]

The most significant impact of MISSION 66 involved the monument's trail system. The only surfaced trail was constructed in 1953 from the summit parking area to High and Observation Points, a distance of 0.6 mile. Under MISSION 66, the trail system more than doubled with the construction of a 600-foot spur trail south from the summit parking area to the South Overlook. The trail from the summit to Scotts Spring was blacktopped and a new trail was constructed from Scotts Spring to the museum.

Another trail project (which was obliterated within 10 years) was a trail leading from the Mitchell Pass parking area, paralleling the Oregon Trail to Jackson's Campsite. With the expanded trail system, new wayside exhibits and interpretive signs and markers were required. These signs were concentrated along the Oregon Trail, Mitchell Pass, and summit.

Other interpretive improvements involved the construction of the "campfire circle," a 250-seat amphitheater for summer historical demonstrations, and the addition of a permanent park ranger to provide information, conduct guided tours, and act as caretaker of collections. With the organization of the cooperating association, an important boost to the interpretive effort came in 1958 with the publication and sale of an official handbook of Scotts Bluff written by Merrill J. Mattes.

Other MISSION 66-funded improvements involved soil and moisture conservation, erosion control of the Oregon Trail ruts, an air-conditioning system; a fireproof, concrete vault; an addition to the utility area, and a second residence "thus assuring the presence of Park Service personnel in the area during the absence of the Superintendent."

MISSION 66 construction began in 1958, and by 1959, a sizeable percentage of the program was complete. Cost of the Scotts Bluff MISSION 66 initiative was set as follows (this figure does not include the revision of exhibits in the Oregon Trail Museum which began in 1960): [2]

Development of necessary roads and trails $35,100
Utility developments, wayside exhibits, campfire circle, etc. 46,300
Employee housing, utility building, and minor building activities 38,500
Seeding and planting 1,200
Total Cost of MISSION 66 Development

With the swift completion of the MISSION 66 development by 1960, Scotts Bluff was able to begin the "transition from the MISSION 66 prospectus to the Master Plan" [3] without any difficulty.


As a historical area, Scotts Bluff National Monument has provided the perfect setting for numerous special events. Some of the more important events are listed in chronological order:

1959: An "Oregon Trail Wagon Train" reenactment from Missouri to Oregon camped at Chimney Rock where 7,000 people came to view it. The train was "attacked" by actual Sioux after which a buffalo dinner was served. The wagon train passed through Scotts Bluff with several thousand visitors on hand. [4]

1960: The Pony Express Centennial Celebration, an NPS-sponsored event held at Fort Laramie and Scotts Bluff, extended from July 22 through 25 NPS Director Conrad Wirth and Chief Postal Inspector David H. Stephens made speeches as an eastbound Pony Express rider arrived and changed horses at a special, temporary Pony Express station at Scotts Bluff. Also present were the Governor of Nebraska, Representative Donald McGinley (4th Congressional District), and Waddell Smith, President of the Pony Express Centennial Association. [5]

1962: August 22 was the target date that statisticians claimed the billionth visitor would enter a National Park Service area. Each park unit (192) chose an unsuspecting visitor(s) to honor at the appropriate time, 12:40 p.m. The NPS Billionth Visitor honored at Scotts Bluff was the James R. Taylor family of Omaha. [6]

1964: In May, the Nebraska State Historical Society held its spring meeting at the monument.

Three plaques commemorating the Pony Express centennial were embedded on a stone base near the visitor center. Dedication of the memorial by the NPS and Pony Express Centennial Association was held on August 16. [7]

1966: A reunion of the William Henry Jackson clan was sponsored at the monument by the OTMA. [8]

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the NPS (August 25), 189 students in the surrounding communities submitted essays on the subject "What the National Parks Mean to Me." [9]

1972: During the National Park Centennial, a special display in the Jackson Room explained the influence of the photographs of William Henry Jackson on the establishment of Yellowstone National Park. [10]

1976: The Bicentennial Wagon Train with entries representing each State in the Union, stopped at Scotts Bluff for two days in late March. Activities planned for the historic wagon train which crossed the continent from west to east attracted a crowd of more than 12,000. Additional NPS personnel from parks in the Midwest Region were dispatched to the monument to help with crowd control. The Survival of American Indians Association, a protest group following the Bicentennial Wagon Train, arrived at Scotts Bluff in early April. No major law enforcement incidents were reported.

The NPS-sponsored play, "We've Come Back for a Little Look Around," returned for the second year on July 24 and drew a crowd of 700 visitors. [11]

1979: A total of 450 people representing five local churches attended Easter sunrise services atop the bluffs. Three church groups met on the summit, one on the North Overlook, one on the South Overlook, and one on High Point. To alleviate traffic problems, the worshippers car-pooled to the summit parking lot. [12] (The Easter services occur at the park every year). Similarly, operating hours are altered annually at other holiday times like Christmas and Fourth of July for local citizens to enjoy the view in the valley below.

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Last Updated: 19-Jan-2003