Some rock landmarks are unmissable and Courthouse and Jail rocks are certainly a sight you want to see if in this part of Nebraska, near the town of Bridgeport.
When the pioneers headed west they of course first traversed the vast prairies of Nebraska before hitting the first rock formations. We had already visited the striking Chimney Rock but before that the travellers came across the first true rock formations on the Oregon Trail, Courthouse and Jail Rocks.
An Oregon Trail Detour
Perhaps the first true rocky landmarks heading west, these rocks were actually five miles from the Oregon Trail itself but journals have shown that many pioneers took a detour to take a closer look. However if you drive in these parts today along Highway 88 near Bridgeport you cannot miss them. A great stop to stretch your legs on your journey.
How Where The Rocks Formed
In ancient history this area was once a higher plateau. This plateau was split by the North Platte River. Over time the plateau eroded and higher points became separated. The clay and volcanic ash element of stone eroding away leaving the sturdier and harder sandstone standing high.
Even in the last 200 years ago since first found, they will have shrunk considerably.
Why Called Courthouse and Jail Rocks?
Of course, as with many natural landmarks, these rocks have been known by many names. having seen them with my own eyes I sensed why it was compared to a grand and large public building. Some called it castle, some church and some called it courthouse. From some angles you only see the one big rock so at one time people heading from the east called it the lonely rock.
Eventually something had to stick as more and more people travelled west. The names that stuck were Courthouse and Jail Rocks. The smaller rock being the jail for the larger courthouse.
Even today though they still stand up proudly rising 400 feet (121 m) out of the North Platte Valley and can be seen for miles around.
The rocks where also a crossroads for just the Oregon Trail but also Oregon Californian Trail as it is here that they both meet and join up.
There is such a wealth of rock landmarks in this part of Nebraska. Chimney Rock as I have said is close by and relatively close also is the majestic Scotts Bluff. A fantastic part of Nebraska to drive through, wander, view and admire. These rock formations helped to show the way in history, a bit like traffic signs, but even today they very much catch the eye and the imagination of travellers.
I wanted to explore more, but there is so much more in this area to see and learn about. It was a pleasure to have seen and experienced this great unforgettable landmark.