Chimney Rock National Historic Site - Bayard, Nebraska - Geological Formation

Chimney Rock National Historic Site is a geological formation and famous landmark located one and a half miles south of Highway 92 on Chimney Rock Road in Bayard, Nebraska. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm for a small admission fee, although children accompanied by adults can enter for free, as will Nebraska State Historical Society members. The attraction remains closed on all state holidays except Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

The rock towers nearly 300 feet high above the surrounding North Platte River valley and is 4,226 feet above sea level. The unusual rock formation is the most noted on the Oregon Trail, and has come to symbolize the great voluntary migration with colonies moving in huge droves from the eastern states. In the middle of the 19th century the rock served as a landmark along the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails as it is visible for many miles along what is now U.S Route 26.

The first recorded mention of Chimney Rock was in 1827 by Joshua Pilcher, who had traveled along the Platte River valley to the Salt Lake rendezvous of the Rocky Mountain fur trappers. Now the rock is a designated National Historic Site and is administered by the National Park Service and the Nebraska State Historical Society. The rock is featured on a Nebraska State Quarter released in 2006, which depicts the migration west via Chimney Rock.

The Visitor Center features numerous museum exhibits that explain the westward migration of the 19th century as well as the memories of Chimney Rock of the people who traveled the trails west. Here visitors can try hands-on activities such as "load the wagon,'' whilst there is also a video presentation to explain the story of the great migration West in greater detail. Original maps made from Captain John C. Fremont's 1842-43 exploration of the Oregon Trail can be found here, whilst several books on western and trail history are available for purchase at the gift shop located within the visitor center.

The Load the Wagon feature at the visitor center is essentially a children's activity enabling them to decide what to take on their trip, but if they overload the wagon a red light will come on. Every now and then throughout the year various events and presentations will be staged at the visitor center. Group tours can be arranged throughout the year with special rates available, although visitors are advised to call ahead to make a reservation for their party.

Past visitors to this site have given good reviews stating that it is a spectacular view, although the rock can be seen from many different places. Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock along the Oregon Trail in nearby Bridgeport are also recommended to tourists. Due to the fairly remote nature of this tourist attraction there are not too many top rated restaurants nearby, but a Mexican establishment El Charrito Restaurant & Lounge and Whiskey Creek Steakhouse are both about 22 miles away in Scottsbluff.

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Jul 27, 2014 @ 9:09 am
When the wife and I entered the Chimney Rock visitors center, the greeting was; "The charge for touring the visitors center is two dollars per person".
Not much explanation of the entire site; no one mentioned that Chimney Rock itself is illuminated at night. Also, no one mentioned that visitors were allowed access to the base of Chimney Rock itself; we were only told that it sits on private land.
We left with many unanswered questions because "staff" were too busy or ignorant of the question topics.
The entry price was more than reasonable, but the total experience was "not up to par" compared to other NHP's we have visited.
Actually, the night illumination is spectacular. A treat that we accidentally experienced only because we were staying the night at "Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing Campground", the only camp ground within 5 miles, and itself a nice place to stay to see other attractions in the area.

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