Mile 969: Independence Rock

“Like the emigrants, we approached the rock from the east side—a lusty monolith, a mile in circumference, and seemingly one solid piece of gray granite. No wonder that this tremulous outpost of the hard-rock country struck sparks from the sandstone-weary migration. For that matter there is nothing frivolous about the Sweetwater Range, or, as the emigrants called it, the Rattlesnake or Granite Mountains—a substantial little item rising in full view to the right and flaunting its nakedness in the teeth of the Rockies. It is a bars ridge of solid rock, and on the occasion of this, our first visit the knuckle ends of its protruding bones were slowly mellowed by reflected light from the vast copper bowl of the gathering sunset to a pale polished coffee color. . . .

Most people know that Independence Rock is called the Great Register of the Desert. Even so, a few facts about it and the thousands of names that at one time appeared upon it, may not come amiss. From earliest days it was noted as a landmark and a camping place for the fur trader’s expeditions. Not a man among them but knew every foot of its surrounding country. Many of the early travelers thought that its name might have been evolved because of its sturdy isolation; but Asahel Munger, a missionary Oregon-bound in 1839, was told by Harris, well known mountain man, that the name Independence was bestowed upon it in 1830 by trappers of the American Fur Company who happened to spend the Fourth of July camped in its shadow.

Until after 1849, the Sweetwater ford was immediately at the rock . . .”