In the middle of the Sweetwater Valley along Highway 220 in Wyoming, a large rock juts out of the ground. This rock stands 130 feet high, 1,900 feet long, and 850 feet wide. It was a landmark for emigrants heading west on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails.
History of Independence Rock
In 1830, legendary mountain man William Sublette named the landmark Independence Rock. Emigrant groups attempted to reach the rock by the 4th of July. It wasn’t because they wanted to celebrate Independence Day, but rather to avoid treacherous mountain snowfall before reaching their destinations. They knew that if they made it to the rock by Independence Day, they would be sure to make it through the Rocky Mountains before winter set in.
On July 4, 1841, missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet and a group of emigrants celebrated Independence Day at the rock. He called it the “Great Register of the Desert”. Over 5,000 names have been carved into the rock.
Climbing the Rock
Access to Independence Rock State Historic Site is at a rest area. There’s a short path from the rest area that leads to the rock. A trail around it is about a mile long. It’s possible to climb Independence Rock, but it can get slippery. Once at the top, there are sweeping views of the valley.
It’s exciting to search for the names that were carved into the rock, but they weren’t as easy to read as I had hoped. It seems that weather has taken its toll, along with modern day vandals carving their names into it alongside the pioneers.
Independence Rock is open daily 24 hours a day. If you do decide to climb Independence Rock, please refrain from destroying this historic site.