Heading West through the open countryside of Wyoming, along State Highway 220, we did not fail to miss Independence Rock.
Such is its unique features, standing out to the flat ground around, it is a landmark today as it was for those passing by on the Oregon Trail in the middle of the 1800s.
Like a huge rock pebble rising up out of the flat desert I can describe it.
In shape it is like Uluru in central Australia, also in the way it rises alone out of the flat ground around it. It is much smaller though than that and is just 40 metres (130 ft) high. Also 580 x 260 metres (1900 x 50 ft) in length and width.
It is actually a near 2 km (just over a mile) walk around its base.
It was actually once the top of an ancient mountain rising high, a mountain that sunk back down over time. It is made up of Archean Granite.
Wind and silt has effectively sandblasted away at it over thousands and thousands of years creating the smooth surface you see today.
The rock’s name came from it being a prominent natural landmark for those travelling out west in the pioneer wagons on the Oregon Trail or heading to California.
It was always a goal for them to reach this point by Independence Day (July 4) during their very long journey. This would in turn give them time to get their animals some good grass and then they could start getting over the Rockies before the snows came.
Register of the desert
With so many emigrants passing through here on the trails of the mid 1800s, their mark upon the rock has been felt.
As pioneers passed through they left their names carved into the rock. This gave rise to its nickname early on as ‘The Register of the desert’.
I was told that the earliest one found on there so far is a M.K Hugh dated 1824.
Half a a million pioneers passed by in the mid 19th century so you can imagine how it looks close up with all the etchings.
On Independence Day 1862 the rock became the site of Wyoming’s first meeting of the Masonic Lodge
In the days before roads, the days before signs, the significance of the great prominent rocks on this route to lead the early travellers, cannot be underestimated. Like the previous rock landmark we passed in Nebraska, Chimney Rock.
They had left their mark on the pioneers just as they did on the rock.