Chimney Rock, Nebraska

June 08, 2001


Provided by: GLOBE at Night
Summary author: Jim Foster

Chimney Rock was one of the most picturesque landmarks along the routes of the Pony Express and the Oregon Trail. It could be seen from about 40 miles away and represented the end of the prairies and the beginning of the western mountains and basins.

This week, riders are re-creating the nearly 2,000 mile, 24 hour-a-day relay that brought mail from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA in 1860 and 1861. Commemorative letters delivered to Sacramento during the re-creation contain a picture of Chimney Rock. 110 years ago, horses were stationed 10 to 15 miles apart during nearly the entire length of the cross country ride - even if the riders weren't fresh, the ponies were. In the late 1850s, it still took a month to get from New York to San Francisco by ship and almost as long by wagon and stagecoach. The Pony Express could make the trip in less than 10 days, but the coming of the telegraph and transcontinental railroad ended the need to have cowboys galloping across the plains carrying the mail.

Several 19th-century accounts reported that Chimney Rock seemed to be shrinking. However, even though erosion is continuous, measurements made of this sandstone pinnacle in the late 1800s are very close to the modern measurement of 325 feet from tip to base - the spire is 120 feet high.

Related Links: