Marker Monday: Court House Rock, Chimney Rock and Scott’s Bluffs

Our Historical Markers across Nebraska highlight fascinating moments and places in our state’s past.

Today we’re focusing on the North Platte Valley’s trio of beautiful natural landmarks: Courthouse Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scotts Bluff.

Marker Location


701-859 W Roscoe Srv Rd, Ogallala, Keith County, Nebraska;

View this marker’s location.

Marker Text


Traveling northwest from Ash Hollow, the emigrants encountered three natural features of the North Platte Valley which became well-known milestones. First was Court House Rock, rising abruptly from the plains as the vanguard of the bluffs farther on. Observers likened this gigantic formation to some great public building or medieval castle.

However, no single sight along the trail attracted as much attention as Chimney Rock. The tower, which could be seen for miles, served as a beacon for the weary travelers. Many camped nearby, and Chimney Rock is mentioned in more trail accounts than any other landmark. Although the spire is slowly crumbling due to erosion, Chimney Rock remains a unique natural wonder. As the wagon trains approached the end of their journey across Nebraska, they were greeted by a series of citadel-like eminences, dominated by the imposing bulk of Scott’s Bluffs. Named after fur trader Hiram Scott, the Bluffs are now a national monument.

Visible traces of the great migration still survive in some areas, and the landmarks remain for the modern traveler who chooses to follow the route of the Great Platte River Road.

Further Information


Scotts Bluff, not to be confused with the nearby town Scottsbluff, is a geographical feature in the Nebraska Panhandle. The bluff was one of the most famous landmarks along the Platte River Road. Pioneers sometimes used the term “Scotts Bluffs” to refer to the collection of bluffs in the region, including the Wildcat Hills. Today, “Scotts Bluff” generally refers to the northernmost of these bluffs. (Generally, the apostrophe is left out, but many journals from the pioneer days call the bluff “Scott’s Bluff.”) Scotts Bluff National Monument includes one other bluff that is usually grouped with Scotts Bluff.

The pass between these two bluffs is called Mitchell Pass and was the primary route through the region after 1851. Before 1851, the path was too difficult to cross, but an unknown group of people were able to smooth out the pass so that wagons could be driven through it. The pass was named after Fort Mitchell, located to the west of the bluff.

The bluff is named after Hiram Scott, a fur trader who died and was buried near the bluff. Historical records show that Hiram Scott, an employee of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, disappeared from the company payroll in 1828. It is assumed he died in that year. The circumstances of his death became a popular story among the pioneers, but no one could agree on exactly what happened. Most stories agree that Scott was abandoned by his companions and left to die, but different stories say he was young, old, an employee of a fur trading company, unemployed. Some say he was killed by Native Americans, others that he died of illness while still others that he died of starvation. The exact location where his body was found is also disputed. In any case, the bluffs now bear his name as a memorial to the tragic story.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast.

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.