June 19,1841 — Scott’s Bluff

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.

Here we first found the mountain sheep; two were killed and brought to camp. These animals are so often described in almost every little School Book that it is unnecessary for me to describe them here.

One day’s journey west of Chimney Rock the emigrants came to Scott’s Bluff, a rock formation named for Hiram Scott, a wounded fur trapper left behind to die by his companions in 1828. The fantastical shapes of the rocks were a welcome sight to travelers who had just spent weeks traversing the flatlands of the prairie.

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 Scott’s Bluff can be found at the website for Scotts Bluff National Monument and the Oregon-California Trails Association. 

Here is what Scott’s 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.

For more on traversing the Gap, see this other post on Scott’s Bluff.

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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