In October of 1812 along the banks of the Sweetwater River, an oasis in Wyoming arid landscape, the Robert Stuart Expedition while carving out the route that would become the Oregon Trail stumbled upon an extraordinary monument, a large granite outcropping that by 1830 would be know as Independence Rock and serve as the most anticipated land mark on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. One journal entry from the journal of Rachael Emma and Wooley Simmons, part of the Brigham Young Party in the summer of 1848, states.
“We heard so much of Independence Rock long before we got there. They said we should have a dance on top of it, as we had many a dance while on the plains. We thought it would be so nice, but when we got there, the company was so small it was given up. We nooned at this place, but Father staid long enough for us children to go all over it. I went with the boys and with Catherine. It is an immense rock with holes and crevices where the water is dripping cool and sparkling. We saw a great many names of persons that had been cut in the rock, but we were so disappointed in not having a dance. Our company was so small, and we had not a note of music or a musician. I was told afterwards by some of the girls that we had traveled with that they had a party there, but President Young had all the music with him”
A visitor today can still walk around and on top the rock to read the names carved in the granite monument. There is even a rest area, a luxury not available to previous generations!! Of coarse time and the harsh winter and spring weather has taken its toll on the rock over the last 160-170 years but many names are still visible, I even found a party that visited the rock in 1850 with the same last name as me. I can only imagine what the rock must have looked like when the carvings were fresh. There must have been thousands as there was hundreds of thousands that passed by on their way westward. Although the trail that meanders westward mostly is lost to the prairie wind, advancements in civilization and the American highway system, there are still many spots along the Emigrant Trail that clearly have almost pristine wagon tracks impressed in the ground. Just a few miles down the road is Devil’s Gate and there a visitor can see almost the exact same trail carved in the dirt that was traveled on by nearly half a million Americans, but no place on along the any of the trail systems in the country captures the spirit of the pioneer and the American West like Independence Rock.
Pioneers embarking on their journey to the west would often time their journey so that the spring grass for livestock would be sufficient along the entire route and to avoid pulling a Donner party in the mountains leading to the California and Oregon territories. In order to accomplish this one must be at Independence Rock no later than July 4th, one can imagine the congestion that ensued on what was no more than a two track and the celebrations that must have been held in times past at the Monument. Independence Rock is every bit as great a place to stop and stretch your legs today as it must have been in the 1850’s. So enjoy your visit but remember, Independence Rock is located on a state park so the rules must be followed.
- No defacing or writing on the rock.
- No gathering of artifacts (anything found must be left there or turned over to State Park personnel on site.)
- Metal detectors are not allowed.
- The discharge of firearms and fireworks is prohibited.
- Vehicle parking in designated areas only.
- Dogs, cats and other pets must be kept on a leash.
- No killing of wildlife, including rattlesnakes.
- Please pack out your own trash.
- Overnight camping by Special Use permit only.