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Scotts Bluff National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument is a United States National Park in western Nebraska that includes an important 19th Century landmark on the Oregon Trail. The national park contains multiple bluffs located on the south side of the North Platte River, but is named after one prominent bluff called Scotts Bluff which rises 700 feet above the plains at its highest point. Other bluffs within the national park are called Eagle Rock, Dome Rock, and Sentinel Rock.

Scotts Bluff County and the city of Scottsbluff, Nebraska were named after the Oregon Trail landmark.

The collection of bluffs was first charted by non-native people in 1812 by an expedition of fur traders traveling along the river. They noted the bluffs as the first large rock formations along the river where the Great Plains started giving way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. However, the findings of these traders was lost due to the War of 1812. It wasn't until 1823 that this route to the Rocky Mountains was rediscovered and the bluffs became a regular landmark for fur traders in the region. The most prominent bluff was named after a fur trader named Hiram Scott who died near the bluff in 1828.

Fur traders, missionaries, and military expeditions began regular trips past Scotts Bluff during the 1830s. Beginning in 1841, multitudes of settlers passed by Scotts Bluff on their way west on the Oregon Trail, using the bluff as a major landmark for navigation. Use of the Oregon Trail tapered off in 1869 when the trail was made obsolete by railroads.

The town of Gering, Nebraska was founded near the base of the bluff in 1887, and the city of Scottsbluff was founded across the North Platte River from the bluff in 1900. Separated only by the river, the two cities have since grown together and now form the 8th largest urban area in Nebraska.

Once permanent settlements had been established nearby, interest in climbing the bluff increased due to its breathtaking views of the flat land stretching to the east, the hills and mountains to the west, and the river valley in between. Various trails were forged up the bluff over the years, but most were precarious and dangerous until a safer, more modern trail was constructed in the early 20th Century.

Scotts Bluff and several nearby bluffs were turned into a National Monument when the National Park Service was created in 1919. A visitors center was built at the base of the bluff which serves as a base for hiking tours of the bluffs and a museum about the Oregon Trail. (Actual ruts from the wagon trains are still visible nearby.) In the 1930s, a roadway leading to the top of Scotts Bluff was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The road goes through three tunnels on its way to the top and provides easy access to the summit for locals and tourists.

The visitor center for Scotts Bluff National Monument is located on State Highway 92, a mile west of its intersection with State Highway 71.