INDEPENDENCE ROCK, WYOMING
Sunday, May 26, 1850
John App and Jake have stopped at Independence Rock on the trail in Wyoming. It is another interesting place that features a granite boulder, about 1,900 feet (580 m) long and about 120 feet (36 m) high, that looks like an egg that has been sunk halfway into the earth. It is easy to climb, which the emigrants did, and the view of the landscape from there today is almost the same as what they saw in the 1850’s. Keep in mind that the ground elevation for the travelers has been increasing and they are now at about 6,000 feet (1,829 m) above sea level. There are still 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to go until they reach the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
They had been following the Platte River for quite some time, but have left it and have recently been following the Sweetwater River, a river that is much smaller than the Platte but still is able to provide plenty of water and grass as it flowed by here. It made a nice place for the travelers to rest, get good water, and graze their livestock in the grass near the river.
It likely was named “Independence Rock” by early fur trappers, but it is the milestone that emigrants wanted to reach by July 4th, Independence Day in America. It also is a rock where travelers left their names – about 5,000 of them – painted in axle grease and chiseled into the stone. 170 years later only a few names, especially the more enduring chiseled names, remain readable due to the natural weathering of the rock. John chiseled his name on the south side of the rock as he mentions in his diary entry.
I searched for his name when I was there, but even the smaller south side of the rock (one end of the “egg”) was a lot of area to inspect for a faint name and date. The scrub brush was so thick and dense that it was a struggle for me to get close to the rock, so his name was never located. Reflecting on it, I was very naïve as to the potential hazards of the place since (1) I was the only one there, (2) walked about in shorts and running shoes entirely unaware of prickly weeds, and (3) the possibility of rattlesnakes everywhere I walked. Lucky, but not too smart.
Two of the photos below are labeled “an emigrant’s view”, and are views from atop Independence Rock with the Sweetwater River meandering on the right. The terrain is almost unchanged from the 1850’s, so it is very nearly what the emigrants saw when they stood on this exact spot.
Stopping Point: Independence Rock (Wyoming)
GPS Latitude: 42° 29.725′ N; Longitude: 107° 08.010′ W
Elevation: 5,907 ft
May the 26th 1850 we were at the Rock Independence resting are mules as it was the saboth day, The Rock Independence is a very Larg Rock with, perhaps 5 Thousand or more names on it. I took a Cold Chisel & Hatchet then Engraved my name on the south side, as it is such a noted Place for names to stand For Ever the Rock is about 6 Hundred Yards Long, 120 Yards wide, about 150 Feet High- Composed of Hard Granite with a very pritty stream of rock this day I passed of In making dried apple Pies, Cooking Rice Baking Bread etc, we had a Big diner on that day, ___ Fried Ham, Rice, warm Bread, Pies, Coffee, Pickels, dried venison A very fine Fruit Cake, (that Jakes mother Baked Before we left) toped off with some pickled Onions, The greatest diner we had since we are on the road