Mile 689: Robidoux Pass

“The river lapped at the very base of Scott’s Bluff. The wagons must go inland. This was the more difficult because the bluff is not an isolated rocky formation, but the end of a line of hills. Several more of less parallel canyons break through, and of these Mitchell’s Pass, used by the highway, is the best and shortest and lies nearest the river; but it was not passable to the early migrations. Probably it was obstructed by fallen rock and debris. Instead the wagons toiled through Robidoux Pass, the next canyon to the south. . . .

Robidoux Canyon or Pass is reached from the town of Gering. One proceeds first over a decided rise and then down into a large circular valley of loose sandy loam. The emigrants’ columns raised storms of dust through which exposure of Scott’s Bluff showed fitfully until they reached the canyon and entered its obscuring walls. The dust was bad for lungs and equally so for eyes. Helen Carpenter’s little dog became entirely blinded and caused her mistress some bad hours by getting lost in the billowing clouds that smothered the teams. Many stated that they suffered more acutely from eyestrain and from cracked and bleeding lips than from any other cause.

Graves grew thick and thicker.They were no longer approached on paths worn smooth by enquiring emigrants who trudged up from the road to read the crude marker and learn who lay below. Now the travelers were too intent upon their own discomfort to bother . . . And still the westbound families camped near and, unless the smell was offensive, even on the graves in stoical disinterest.

The diarists raved about the distant beauty of Scott’s Bluff. It gave off romance in practically visible emanations, but they seldom mention being comfortable there.”