After the transcontinental railroad was completed in
1869, the Oregon-California Trail ceased to exist as a migration route
to the Pacific. After gold was discovered in the Black Hills of South
Dakota in 1874, a gold rush began. There were two main trails into the
Hills from the south, but neither passed by Scotts Bluff. One of these
started from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and passed through Fort Laramie. The
other, and perhaps the most used, was the Sidney-Deadwood route. A
bridge across the North Platte at Camp Clark, near present Bridgeport,
saved the gold seekers time from the railroad junction at Sidney.
Ranchers moved in to the North Platte Valley around
1870, and by 1872, some 60,000 head of cattle were located on Horse
Creek, about 20 miles west of Scotts Bluff.  From this time until 1886, the cattle
industry flourished in the valley. Inflation of the cattle market,
overstocking, overgrazing, and the disastrous winter of 1885-86 caused
the cattle industry to suffer greatly and it was not long before
ranching was of secondary importance in the vicinity of Scotts Bluff.
Homesteaders moved into the North Platte Valley and staked out claims in
the early 1880's. Towns soon made their appearance. Gering was platted
in 1888 and became a center of farming and ranching activity. Other
towns soon came into being.
The last large town to be platted was Scottsbluff.
When the Burlington railroad reached up the valley on the north side of
the river in 1900, a rush was started to build along this route across
the river from Gering. Ten years later the Union Pacific railroad came
up the south side of the river. The Burlington had a jump on the people
on the south bank of the North Platte, however, and Scottsbluff steadily
grew into the largest town in the County of Scotts Bluff. Today,
Scottsbluff has a population about 14,000, while Gering, the county
seat, has about 5,000.
During the late years of the nineteenth century, the
old Oregon Trail was used mostly by the military between Forts Kearny
and Laramie, for cattle drives, and by freighters, ranchers and farmers,
and travelers between the communities which had sprung up along the
south bank of the North Platte. The Oregon-California Trail soon became
a part of history.
First interpretive marker was placed in
Mitchell Pass by the State of Nebraska in 1912, seven years before the
Monument was established.