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Can You See Wagon Ruts At Scottsbluff?

Can You See Wagon Ruts At Scottsbluff?

You may have figured that the Oregon trail also runs through Scottsbluff. It’s a magnificent trail with a rich history of immigrants who used to travel on wagons. So, you may be wondering if you can see any wagon ruts at Scottsbluff.

Technically, erosion has made locating the wagon ruts at Scottsbluff difficult. But, you may trek approximately half a mile of the real route on the Oregon Trail Pathway to the southwest of the visitor center and observe the wagon roadbed into Mitchell Pass.

Keep reading below.

History of Wagon Ruts in Oregon

Ruts engraved two to six feet below the surface in a sandstone ridge on the south bank of the North Platte River, around a half-mile south of Guernsey, Wyoming, offer eloquent physical proof of the path taken by tens of thousands of westward emigrants along the Oregon Trail between 1841 and 1869.

The ruts were caused by years of wear and tear by the iron wagon wheels and deliberate cutting by immigrants who wanted to raise the slope from the base of the river nearby.

When Robert Stuart and his six friends traveled back to the East from the head of the Columbia River in 1812, it was the first time the trip was officially documented. Stuart’s path was followed by many merchants, poachers, and missionaries in the years that followed. 

The first wagon train of settlers to travel the path was the Bartleson-Bidwell expedition in 1841, according to broad consensus. 

This trail was utilized by around 125 persons in 1842 and about 900 people the following year. The Oregon Trail quickly developed into a well-known and well-defined route. The Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express Trails all traveled in the same direction from Fort Laramie to South Pass in the present-day state of Wyoming.

Although certain portions of the path were used locally for many years, the trail’s usage as an overland route decreased after 1869, when the Union Pacific Railroad was finished. The Oregon Trail Ruts at Guernsey are unmatched in their clarity and purity, possibly the trail’s most noticeable ruts today.

History of the Scotts Bluff National Monument

Those moving westward utilized several landmarks along the Oregon Trail as a route-finding tool. It’s simple to understand why Scotts Bluff became one of the most talked-about locations, given that it rises 800 feet over the surrounding countryside (Chimney Rock was the most popular landmark, 23 miles to the east-southeast). As travelers arrived, it represented that a third of the journey to Oregon had been completed.

On their trip to the west, more than a million individuals traveled past this monument. So many people have traversed the trails they walked that it’s possible to see the wagon wheel imprints! 

In 1919, Scotts Bluff was declared a National Monument to safeguard the area’s heritage. The Civilian Conservation Corps built a road to the summit of Scotts Bluff in the 1930s, which was the greatest of several upgrades made to the monument over the years. 

Its three tunnels are the only ones in Nebraska that allow automobiles.

ScottsBluff’s Oregon Trail

From the Willamette Valley in Oregon to Missouri, the Oregon Trail covered a distance of around 2,170 miles. It meandered through mountains, sagebrush desert, and plains. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants undertook the arduous trek from the 1840s through the 1880s, but not all of them made it. Today, we can see the Oregon Trail’s course at more than 120 historical sites, driving routes, and markers.

One of the bottlenecks when traveling across western Nebraska is located near Scotts Bluff National Monument. The Oregon Trail crosses Mitchell Pass here, a flat area hemmed in by towering buff-colored bluffs to the north and south. The pass is now a state highway, but in the middle of the 1800s, Conestoga and covered wagons traversed it over a treacherous wagon track.

For more information on the Oregon Trail in Scottsbluff, watch this video below:

The Oregon Trail through the historic Scotts Bluff in Nebraska

Can You See Wagon Ruts at Scottsbluff?

The North Platte River is blocked from wagon traffic along its south bank by the bluffs of Scotts Bluff National Monument. Initially, immigrants had to detour south and utilize the Robidoux Pass, a natural entryway, to get through the bluffs. 

As a new route at Mitchell Pass was created in 1850, this essentially ended. This path, close to the North Platte River, spared immigrants over 15 miles of the journey. 

The nature of the terrain, however, made the road restricted. As a result, a single stretch of land had to be traversed by more than 300,000 immigrants, together with their carts and animals. Deep ruts eventually developed as a result of this traffic. 

Even today, people may still see these ruts, which have become a Scotts Bluff National Monument feature. They have been divided up into sections, one of which has been turned into an informative walking route.

How to Get to Scotts Bluff National Monument

Take advantage of having access to a car if you intend to go by automobile to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Take pleasure in having access to air conditioning, being capable of driving over bridges instead of crossing rivers, and not worrying about being eaten alive by bugs while you journey for days.

But seriously, it’s quite simple to travel to Scottsbluff. The main problem is that it takes some time to get there because it is far from the interstate.

Suppose you’re coming from Colorado without considering traffic as you try to exit the larger Denver, Colorado region. In that case, the distance is around 200 miles, which will take a little over 3 hours.

If you’re traveling from the east, from Kansas City, Missouri, to Scotts Bluff National Monument, it may take 9 to 10 hours, but this is much quicker than traveling by wagon train!


So, to conclude, it may be a bit difficult to find wagon ruts at Scottsbluff, considering how much they may have eroded over the years, but it won’t be impossible if you want to have a viewing. After all, it pays a good tribute to all the emigrants.