Independence Rock was the most-noted landmark of the wagon trails west of Fort Laramie. The rock derived its name from a party of fur trappers who camped and celebrated Independence Day near the rock on July 4, 1830. Eventually, thousands of emigrants camped at the foot of this 1,900 feet long by 850 feet wide granite outcrop. They carved their names and messages into the granite, using Independence Rock as a bulletin board for Oregon Trail travelers. In 1961, it was designated a national historic landmark managed by the State of Wyoming.
Today, the site contains a footpath that goes around the base of the rock, interpretive exhibits that tell the trail story, visible trail ruts (a deep wagon swale passes beneath the path's footbridge), and emigrant inscriptions. Hiking is allowed on the rock; however, please avoid walking on the earliest inscriptions as they are wearing thin.
On July 26, 1849, J. Goldsborough Bruff
"reached Independence Rock . . . at a distance looks like a huge whale. It is being painted & marked every way, all over, with names, dates, initials, &c - so that it was with difficulty I could find a place to inscribe it."
A map of Passport and Places to Go locations for National Historic Trails.