Crawling slowly up the North Platte River, emigrants peered eagerly ahead for their first view of Chimney Rock, the most famous of all the landmarks on the "Great Platte River Road."
This prominent column of clay and sandstone, resembling a tall factory chimney, was mentioned in more emigrant diaries than any other landmark on the Oregon-California Trail. Visible for miles, Chimney Rock was more than a wonder of nature. As a milepost on a journey noted so far for its monotony, the column was a significant landmark in measuring the emigrants' progress west.
An impressive curiosity to modern travelers, Chimney Rock was a, "grand and splendid object," to 19th century emigrants, who had never seen the geological wonders of the American West. On June 27, 1849, Elisha Perkins was humbled and awed by his visit to this remarkable curiosity when me wrote, ". . . camped opposite to & about 1 mile from Chimney Rock. I had some curiosity to see this . . . Imagine a pyramid standing alone though surrounded by rocky precipices some 150 feet high & at its base 20 feet through . . . No conception can be formed of the magnitude of this grand work of nature until you stand at its base & look up. If a man does not feel like an insect then I don't know when he should."
The Nebraska State Historical Society has built a new visitor near the site that contains excellent interpretive exhibits.
How do I visit?
Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Last updated: February 21, 2020