Scotts Bluff National Monument is located in Scotts
Bluff County, Nebraska, about 20 miles east of the Wyoming state line,
in what is commonly called the "Panhandle of Nebraska." The Monument
itself contains some 3,450 acres of land of which about 2,200 acres are
federally owned. The three nearest towns are: Gering, 3 miles east of
the headquarters area; the city of Scottsbluff, 5 miles northeast from
the Monument; and Mitchell, Nebraska, some 10 miles to the northwest.
State Highway 92 intersects the Monument and connects with U. S. 26, 20
miles to the east; with State High way 29 in Gering; and again at an
intersection some 3 miles north of headquarters.
The North Platte River flows in a southeasterly
direction through western Nebraska to a junction with the South Platte
at North Platte, Nebraska, (175 miles east of the Monument). It was
along this famous river route to the western mountains that the endless
caravans of fur trappers, emigrants, and pioneers made their way west
seeking homes and riches. The Monument borders this river on the south
bank and encompasses the famous bluff, which bears the name of one of
the more unfortunate "mountain men," Hiram Scott.
Along the south bank of the North Platte River for
100 miles in western Nebraska, is a long ridge of bluffs. These bluffs,
with some lesser hills to the north, form the North Platte Valley.
Scotts Bluff stands apart from these bluffs to form one of the dominant
features of this valley. Soil in the valley is rich and, with the aid of
irrigation from the river, produces excellent crops of corn, potatoes,
beans, sugar beets, and other staples. Where irrigation water cannot
reach, the raising of cattle and sheep is important.
The climate of the area is semi-arid, with cold
winters, relatively hot summers, and the windy conditions of the Great
Prehistory of the Area
The geology of the main bluff shows features of both
the Miocene and Oligocene epochs. The upper third of the bluff consists
of a formation of sandstone known as the Arickaree formation.
Concretions located in this softer sandstone have resisted erosion and
have left the bluff standing while the elements reduced the land around
The lower two-thirds of the bluff are of the
Oligocene Epoch. The principal formation in this section is Brule clay.
This material is very soft and sand-like, submitting rapidly to erosion.
When this clay is unprotected by more durable formations, erosion has
produced a pattern of irregular gullies known as "badlands". Thin layers
of volcanic ash and very soft sandstone are interspersed within the
walls of the bluff. "One of the most interesting physiographic features
of the Northern Great Plains is the badland topography so extensively
developed in the Big Badlands of South Dakota and Northwestern Nebraska
as well as in numerous smaller areas such as that developed at the base
of Scotts Bluff." 
Paleontology is very rich in Scotts Bluff National
Monument, as it is in this general area of the Great Plains region.
Fossil remains found in the Brule clay formations are of great interest.
Fur traders and pioneers of over 100 years ago noticed these remains.
The first scientific interest was aroused in 1847 when a fur trader
showed the jawbone of a Titanothere to Dr. Hiram Prout of St. Louis.
Common fossils found in the Scotts Bluff area are giant turtles,
Oreodonts (pig-like animals), ancient rhinoceroses, saber-toothed
tigers, dogs, deer, camels, and rodents. 
Little is known about the activities of prehistoric
man around Scotts Bluff even though several important sites have been
found. Archeologists have found evidence of primitive Indian life of the
early lithic period of 5,000 years ago. Several occupation sites have
been uncovered at nearby locations such as Signal Butte, Scotts Bluff
Bison Quarry, Spanish Diggings, Ash Hollow Cave, and the Scotts Bluff
Potato Cellar. Signal Butte is, perhaps, the most famous of these sites
being investigated by scientists of the Smithsonian Institution and the
University of Nebraska. Three levels of materials were found here
revealing early mankind in western Nebraska, The oldest of these dates
back 5,000 years. The second, or middle, level reveals life of the
Pre-Woodland period, 1,500 years ago. The last, or uppermost, level has
produced artifacts of the "Ceramic Period" of 250 years ago.
The Scotts Bluff Bison Quarry, located near Signal
Butte, has revealed signs of ancient hunters who lived some 10,000 years
ago. Other caves and excavations nearby have produced materials of
burial sites of early Indian dwellers.