So far this morning we had experienced Carhenge, which was neat but not as awesome as I remembered from my childhood. I hoped our next stop would not prove the same. We were headed to another place I remember from that road trip when I was about 10 – Chimney Rock.
If you have any interest in the Oregon Trail or settlement of the West, Chimney Rock is somewhere you really must go. This rock spire is the most mentioned landmark in the journals of settlers heading west. It was noticeable for miles. The rock at one point stood over 480 feet tall, with nothing else around it but flat plains for miles. Unfortunately, due to natural erosion, the spire is crumbling over time. It is definitely shorter than when I was here as a kid. Still impressive, and the history is something you should experience, but it won’t be around forever.
The visitor center at Chimney Rock is really small, but there is a nice interactive area for the kids. They got to try loading a wagon to see what they could carry on their “trip west”. It was interesting to watch them work out what they needed – especially when it came to types of food.
I really appreciate how a lot of national park visitor centers have interactive areas now for the kids. It makes the experience much more family friendly and helps the kids remember the things they learned. The Jr. Ranger program also makes things more fun for the kids. They participated in another one of those here.
After exploring the visitor center, we headed out back to the viewing patio. We were the only ones there, so it was a nice quiet time. Everyone was really awed by the idea that so many people came by here on their way west and changed the course of history for our country.
Chimney Rock is a part of a larger National Park, Scotts Bluff. Scotts Bluff is another must see stop on the Oregon Trail and we are headed there next.