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Chimney Rock Nebraska


In July 2009 I decided to detour off my planned route and visit Chimney Rock in western Nebraska. Chimney Rock was only about thirty minutes from the US Highway I was driving on. As I made my way there, I passed a Nebraska Historical Society Marker that was for the Camp Clarke Bridge and Sidney Black Hills Trail. Naturally I had to stop. The bridge was built in 1876 by Henry T. Clarke to improve the trail from Sydney, Nebraska to the Black Hills in Dakota Territory. At the height of the bridge's use, 1878-1879, twenty two million pounds of freight crossed it. The bridge was two thousand feet long with sixty one wooden trusses. Tolls varied from two to six dollars. Traffic began to decline after 1880 and the bridge stopped being used after 1900. Nothing remains of the bridge or nearby Camp Clarke.

I continued to drive along the flat land with an occasional rolling hill when suddenly I observed some huge protrusions of rock and soil pop up. False alarm. Certainly amazing sites, but not Chimney Rock. A little further down the road I spotted Chimney Rock. It's 325 feet tall so it wasn't difficult to find. The Nebraska Historical Society Marker says Chimney Rock is smaller than it was during the pioneer days but gives no explanation. Erosion and pieces falling off perhaps? If anyone knows please email me, I'd appreciate it. Chimney Rock is composed of Brule Clay, volcanic ash, and Arickaree sandstone.

In 1956 Chimney Rock was declared a National Historic Site by the US Government. In addition to westbound settlers using the rock as a landmark on the Oregon Trail, eastbound travelers used it on their route to the Missouri River. The short lived, but very famous, Pony Express used Chimney Rock as a waypoint and the Chimney Rock Station was created. There's a marker for the Pony Express and Oregon Trail present also. A visitor center and giftshop are across the street from the markers. They are far enough away from Chimney Rock that they don't appear in any photos you may want to take.

The Nebraska Historical Society Marker for the Clarke Bridge.

The Clarke Bridge and Camp Clarke were at the dark green area in this photo.

Chimney Rock from the roadway.

Chimney Rock.

The Chimney Rock, Pony Express, and Oregon Trail markers.

The Pony Express marker.

A closeup of the Pony Express plaque.

A closeup of the Oregon Trail marker.


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