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Lincoln Journal Star from Lincoln, Nebraska • 47

Lincoln, Nebraska
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A DAY AWAY Lincoln Journal Star MAY 12. 2006 3 The Rock awaits A century and a half after thousands of pioneers passed by, and often journaled about, Chimney Rock, the Oregon-California Trail's best-known landmark gets a huge tourism boost: the new Nebraska quarter Three miles south of Bayard in the Nebraska Panhandle is the most famous landmark on the Trail, Chimney Rock. And thanks to the new Nebraska quarter, it's going to be even better known. Photos by SHERI IRWIN BY SHERI IRWIN For the Lincoln Journal Star Three miles south of Bayard in the Nebraska Panhandle is' trie most famous landmark on the Oregon-California Trail, Chimney Rock. And thanks to the new Nebraska quarter, it's going to be even better known.

From 1812 to 1866, nearly half a million emigrants passed the great spire during their expeditions westward. A century and a half later, said Loren Pospisil, tourism facility operator for the Nebraska State Historical Society, more than 25,000 tourists visit the Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center annually to view Chimney Rock and learn more about its history. Pospisil said the new Nebraska quarter, which includes an ox-drawn covered wagon and pioneers passing Chimney Rock, is a great marketing piece for the visitor center, which was completed in 1994. "It is probably the world's smallest promotional item that will be in everyone's pocket," he added.

The Nebraska quarter is part of the U.S. Mint's 50 State Quarters Program the 37th released, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Emigrants' journals and letters If you go How to find it: in Morrill County, about 3 miles south of Bayard, about 20 miles east of Scottsbluff Distance from Lincoln: about 375 miles Visitor CenterMuseum Store: 1.5 miles south of Nebraska 92 on Chimney Rock Road. Hours: Memorial Day-Labor Day, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

daily. September-May, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Closed on state holidays. Admission: $3 for adults.

Children with adults free. Admission fees waived for Nebraska State Historical Society members. Groups: Group rates available; group tours available year round. Call ahead for reservations: (308)586-2581. Mailing address: Chimney Rock National Historic Site, PO.

Box Bayard 693340680 E-mail: ft from the 1800s, on display in the visitor center, talk of the awe of the rock. When emigrants reached Chimney Rock, most had come more than 500 miles. Seeing the rock they had heard about or seen in drawings meant their journey was one-third over. In 1842, Elijah White wrote that the rock was "like the Washington Monument." Three years later, I t. J.

Henry Carleton of the U.S. Dragoons described Chimney Rock as "one of the greatest curiosities perhaps the greatest in the whole valley." For the westward travelers, Chimney Rock signaled the end of the prairies as the trail became more steep and rugged heading west towards the Rocky Mountains. Many drawings of it were made by surveyors and artists, and most pioneers mentioned it in their diaries. Travelers reported that it was visible 40 miles away. The center's exhibit pays tribute to the pioneers, 20,000 of whom died en route to their hoped-for destinations from cholera, flood-swollen river crossings, runaway wagons, and rattlesnakes.

Firearms were the leading cause of accidental death and injury, but the exhibit notes that more emigrants shot and killed each other, mostly by accident, than were killed by Native Americans. "Many tourists come to the visitors center and tell me about stories they have heard about the rock. These include everything from the military or others using the rock for target practice to people climbing the rock to how it is eroding at an alarming pace," Pospisil said. According to Pospisil, in the last 30 or so years, the rock has eroded about five feet, "which is barely perceptible." However, as the exhibit notes, in time, "erosion will undoubtedly destroy it." The height of Chimney Rock, which was named a National Historical Site in 1956, is currently estimated at 325 feet from tip to base. See CHIMNEY, Page 5 Lincoln teacher Lenny Gish stands beside Rock Wagon inside the Chimney Rock visitor center.

The exhibit gives guests a hands-on opportunity to try loading a pioneer wagon. If it weighs too much, they have to make choices about what to "take" on their trip. COURT HOUSE ROCK AND JAIL ROCK Unusual geological formations that also became landmarks along the Oregon and Mormon trails. These rocks are large, impressive formations that have been eroded and shaped by time and the elements. They are composed mainly of Brule clay and Gering sandstone.

These rocks are the easternmost extension of the Rocky Mountains. Natives used this bluff for camping and to send smoke signals. How to find it 5 miles south of Bridgeport on Nebraska 88. Nearby SCOTTS BLUFF NATIONAL MONUMENT Scotts Bluff National Monument is in Scotts Bluff County about 20 miles east of the Wyoming state line. The monument comprises 2,987 acres.

Scotts Bluff itself is a massive promontory rising nearly 800 feet above the North Platte Valley. The North Platte River borders the monument to the north. Scotts Bluff National Monument stands amid a 100-mile-long ridge of bluffs that parallel the river's south bank. Several original paintings by William Henry Jackson, one of the most prolific American artistsphotographers of the late 1800s and early 1900s, are displayed in the Oregon Trail Museum at Scotts Bluff National Monument. How to find rb 2 miles west of Gering on Nebraska 92.

U.S. MINT The new Nebraska quarter, featuring a pioneer family as they travel near Chimney Rock, was the 37th released of the 50 state quarters being made by the U.S. Mint..

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