Mile 655: Chimney Rock

“On the north side [of Courthouse Rock], between it and the river, a large area of swampy ground makes the going uncertain, and Chimney Rock, the next famous landmark, looms ahead like a beckoning finger to encourage the traveler. . . .

The very loveliness of the scene made for enthusiasm and exaggeration. Some journals record the height of the Chimney as four hundred or even five hundred feet, but the government report, made by Preuss of the Frémont Expedition in 1842, read . . .’the weather is rapidly diminishing its height, which is now not more than two hundred feet above the river . . .’ Jim Bridger explained this phenomenon by the supposition that it had been struck by lightening . . . Local tradition has it that a company of soldiers once camped near by, and, needing a target for their cannon practice, displayed the excellence of their marksmanship by knocking pff about forty feet of the famous old column.

The Chimney Rock stands just across the valley from Bayard, Nebraska, where a one-way bridge tempts the motorist to cross the island-studded Platte and view this great limestone shaft. Here the recurring cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1850 were at their worst, and the Chimney stands guard over the long chain of hasty graves like Nature’s own monument to their memory, visible for miles, a fit symbol of the wild and throbbing romance of the trail.”

[N.B. There is a Chimney Rock Cemetery dating from emigrant times. It is at the end of the short road which goes straight at Mile 655 of the Pony Express Bikepacking Route, where the route makes a right-hand tun. Google Maps shows a trail to Chimney Rock from the cemetery, whereas there is no access from the parking lot at the Chimney Rock National Historic site. Comments on Google Maps note that there is another trail just north of the parking lot. apparently, there are a lot of rattle snakes in the area.]