• Sentinal and Eagle Rocks

    Scotts Bluff

    National Monument Nebraska

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  • Monument Marathon Lane Closure September 27

    The morning of Saturday, September 27, the east bound lane of Old Oregon Trail will be closed from 8AM until 1PM. The park is open normal hours of 8AM -5PM. To access the park please use the west bound lane. For more info http://www.monumentmarathon.com/ More »

Oregon Trail Pathway

Remnants of the Oregon Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument.  Dome Rock is seen in the background.

Between 1841 and 1869, over 350,000 people traveled west past Scotts Bluff. Before 1851, pioneers used Robidoux Pass since the badlands between the river and the bluff made travel impossible. Nine miles south of Scotts Bluff, the pass offered a spring and a trading post operated by the Robidoux brothers.

In 1851, Mitchell Pass was opened and became the main route for the emigrants (pioneers heading west).

In 1851, William Lobenstine wrote in his journal:

"The rock itself is separated nearly at it's middle, having a pass here fifty to sixty feet wide, ascending at both sides perpendicular to a height of three to four hundred feet.

The passage through here was only made possible in 1851 and is now preferred by nearly all emigrants, cutting off a piece of eight miles from the old road."

Mitchell Pass, known during the 1850's as "Devil's Gap" became the principle route of the military, pony express and the telegraph. Mitchell Pass was named after United States Brigadier General Robert B. Mitchell.

The covered wagons in front of the Scotts Bluff National Monument administrative building mark the start of the Oregon Trail Pathway. The smaller Studebaker and Murphy wagons were the mode of transportation for families. The larger Conestoga wagon was not often used on the Oregon Trail, but was used to haul freight. Living history demonstrations occur at the Murphy wagon during the summer.

When the trail surface changes from asphalt to dirt, you are walking "on" the actual Oregon Trail. Today, after over 150 years of erosion of the soft rocks, individual wheel ruts are not visible. What is visible is called a "swale," which is a deep roadbed that was created by wagons traveling single file through Mitchell Pass.

After crossing Mitchell Pass, the trail becomes paved again, and the Oregon Trail's path is marked by wooden posts in the trail's center. Near the end of the hiking trail is the site where William Henry Jackson camped and sketched while working as a bullwhacker on a wagon train in 1866.

Did You Know?

Saddle Rock Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument

The 1.6 mile Saddle Rock Trail leads hikers from the Scotts Bluff National Monument Visitor Center to the summit. Though the wagon ruts have eroded away, the 1/2 mile Oregon Trail Pathway runs from the Visitor Center to the remnants and roadbed of the Oregon Trail.