Mile 970: Independence Rock

“A few miles upstream from where they gained the Sweetwater River, the emigrants came to Independence Rock—a half-mile-long ridge of granite that rises like a whaleback from the sagebrush sea of the Sweetwater Valley. It was a rite of westward passage to write one’s name on Independence Rock. Thousands of signatures plastered its surface during the emigration years, and many remain today. Emigrants carved their names with hammers or chisels, or painted them with sticky mixtures of black powder and buffalo grease. . . .

A party of 1830 trappers and traders lead by William Sublette probably gave Independence Rock its name when they celebrated Independence Day at its base. For the emigrants, the name signified westward progress. If you reached Independence Rock by the Fourth of July, you were on schedule to get over the western mountains before winter snows.”