Chimney Rock National Historic Site

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This article is about the landmark in Nebraska along the historic Oregon Trail and Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail. For other uses, see Chimney Rock (disambiguation).
Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimney Rock, Nebraska - NARA - 294354.tif
Chimney Rock in 1904
Map showing the location of Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Map showing the location of Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimney Rock
Location Morrill County, Nebraska, USA
Nearest city Bayard, Nebraska
Coordinates 41°42′13″N 103°20′54″W / 41.70361°N 103.34833°W / 41.70361; -103.34833Coordinates: 41°42′13″N 103°20′54″W / 41.70361°N 103.34833°W / 41.70361; -103.34833
Area 83 acres (34 ha)
Designated August 9, 1956
Operator Nebraska State Historical Society
Chimney Rock in 2009

Chimney Rock is a prominent geological rock formation in Morrill County in western Nebraska. Rising nearly 300 feet (91 m) above the surrounding North Platte River valley, the peak of Chimney Rock is 4,226 feet (1,288 m) above sea level.[1] During the middle 19th century it served as a landmark along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail, which ran along the north side of the rock. It is visible for many miles from the east along U.S. Route 26.


Prior to exploration and settlement by European immigrants, the Native Americans of the area, mainly the Lakota Sioux, used to refer this formation by a term that translated into Elk's Peak."[2] 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. This marker of the plains was recorded in many journals after this time.[3] The name "Chimney Rock" probably originated from early fur traders.[4] The first recorded mention of "Chimney Rock" was in 1827 by Joshua Pilcher. Pilcher had journeyed up the Platte River valley to the Salt Lake rendezvous of the Rocky Mountain fur trappers. It went through a variety of names before becoming Chimney Rock such as Chimley Rock and Chimney Tower, as well as euphemistic names based off the original Native American name such as Elk's Peak and Elk Brick.[4][5]

A small town also called Chimney Rock once stood near the base of the summit.[6] A post office was established at the town of Chimney Rock in 1913, and remained in operation until 1922.[7]

Based on sketches, paintings, written accounts, and the 1897 photograph by Darton, Chimney Rock was taller when it was first seen by settlers, but has been reduced in height since then by erosion and lightning.


The pillar consists primarily of Brule clay interlayered with volcanic ash and Arikaree sandstone. The harder sandstone layers near the top have protected the pillar since it broke away from the retreating cliff line to the south.[8] Chimney Rock rises approximately 286 feet (87 m) above its surroundings.[1]


Chimney Rock was designated a National Historic Site on August 9, 1956[9] and is a National Park Service affiliated area. It is maintained and operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society. Chimney Rock and Independence Rock further west are probably the most famous features along the Oregon Trail. It is located 20 miles southeast of Scotts Bluff National Monument, on Nebraska Route 92.[10]

The Ethel and Christopher J. Abbot Visitor Center features museum exhibits and a video about pioneers and the migrations in the West, as well as a gift shop.[11]

On March 1, 2006, the Nebraska State Quarter was released. The quarter features a covered wagon headed west past Chimney Rock, memorializing Nebraska's role in westward migration.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Chimney Rock, Nebraska". Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  2. ^ Chimney Rock, (Atlas Obscura, retrieved on November 21st, 2015).
  3. ^ Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Nebraska, National Park Service, 1964
  4. ^ a b "Chimney Rock History"
  5. ^
  6. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1938). Origin of Nebraska place names. Lincoln, NE: Works Progress Administration. p. 8. 
  7. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Chimney Rock Post Office (historical)
  8. ^ "Chimney Rock". Nebraska State Historical Society. 
  9. ^ "More About Chimney Rock National Historic Site". Nebraska State Historical Society. 
  10. ^ "Chimney Rock, Nebraska". 
  11. ^ "Chimney Rock National Historic Site". Nebraska State Historical Society. 

External links[edit]