On the Trail with John Bidwell: June 19, 1841

We gradually receded from the river in order to pass through a gap in a range of high hills called Scott’s Bluffs. As we advanced towards these hills, the scenery of the surrounding country became beautifully grand and picturesque–they were worn in such a manner by the storms of unnumbered seasons that they really counterfeited the lofty spires, towering edifices, spacious domes, and in fine all the beautiful mansions of cities. We encamped among these envious objects having come about 20 miles.

After the flat monotony of the prairies, Scotts Bluff provided a welcome change of scenery for travelers on the Oregon Trail. Many travelers remarked on the fantastic forms taken by the steep-sided hills in this area of western Nebraska. More information about the history and geology of Scotts Bluff can be found at the website for Scotts Bluff National Monument and the Oregon-California Trails Association. 

Here is what Scotts Bluff looks like today. Much the same, except that the Bidwell-Bartleson Party had to negotiate deep ravines, like the ones in the foreground, rather than the smooth road you see on the left.

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Scotts Bluff National Monument

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Looks like John Bidwell left his wagon behind.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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