Chimney Rock National Historic Site

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Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimney Rock NE.jpg
Chimney Rock (2009)
Map showing the location of Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Map showing the location of Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimney Rock
Map showing the location of Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Map showing the location of Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimney Rock
LocationMorrill County, Nebraska, USA
Nearest cityBayard, Nebraska
Coordinates41°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
Area83 acres (34 ha)
DesignatedAugust 9, 1956
OperatorHistory Nebraska

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 4,228 feet (1,289 m) above sea level.[1] The formation served as a landmark along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail during the mid-19th century. The trails ran along the north side of the rock, which remains a visible landmark for modern travelers along U.S. Route 26 and Nebraska Highway 92.


Prior to exploration and settlement by European immigrants, the Native Americans of the area—mainly the Lakota Sioux—would refer to this formation by a term which meant "elk penis".[2][3] The first non-natives to see the pillar were probably the Astorians of Robert Stuart in their eastward journey from the Pacific Ocean in 1813. Chimney Rock was recorded in many journals after the Stuart expedition.[4]

The name "Chimney Rock" probably originated from early fur traders.[5] 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. The formation went through a variety of names before becoming Chimney Rock such as Chimley Rock and Chimney Tower, as well as euphemisms based on the original Native American name, such as Elk's Peak and Elk Brick.[5][3]

A small town named Chimney Rock once stood near the base of the formation.[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 since been reduced in height by erosion and lightning and reportedly by cannon fire from military aircraft.


Chimney Rock 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]


A thin pillar of rock juts upwards.
A Close-Up of Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock from the north (2016)

Chimney Rock was designated a National Historic Site on August 9, 1956,[2] and is a National Park Service affiliated area, maintained and administered by History Nebraska with NPS technical support. Chimney Rock and Independence Rock further west in Wyoming are two of the prominent features along the Oregon Trail. Chimney Rock is located 20 miles southeast of Scotts Bluff National Monument, on Nebraska Highway 92.[9]

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.[10]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Chimney Rock, Nebraska". Retrieved 2011-03-25.
  2. ^ a b "More About Chimney Rock National Historic Site". History Nebraska.
  3. ^ a b Chimney Rock, (Atlas Obscura, retrieved on November 21st, 2015).
  4. ^ Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Nebraska, National Park Service, 1964
  5. ^ a b "Chimney Rock History"
  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". History Nebraska.
  9. ^ "Chimney Rock, Nebraska". Archived from the original on 2012-04-20. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Chimney Rock National Historic Site". History Nebraska.

External links[edit]