Chimney Rock has become one of the most famous landmarks in the American West. The first recorded mention of Chimney Rock was in 1827 by Joshua Pilcher. He journeyed up the Platte River valley to the Salt Lake rendizvous of the Rocky Mountain fur trappers. The first non-natives to see the pillar were probably the Astorians of Robert Stuart in their eastern journey from the Pacific Ocean in 1813.
In 1941, the 80 acres containing the site were transferred to the Nebraska State Historical Society by the Roszel F. Durnal family. In 1956, Norman and Donna Brown deeded additional land to the society. In that same year, Chimney Rock was designated a National Historic Site by the federal government.