Chimney Rock National Historic Site Bayard, Neb. Visited: July 9, 2004 NPS Site Visited: Not an Official Site NPS Affiliate Site Visited: 9 of 26 NPS Website; Local Website
WHAT IS IT? Famous 500-foot high rock formation. Chimney Rock was an important geographical landmark for the thousands of pioneers traveling west along the Oregon Trail.
BEAUTY (6/10) Chimney Rock is unmistakable. Its willowy, fragile spire dramatically rises from its cylindrical base. The rock is a revelation after hours of driving through the dull monotony of the flat Nebraska plains. Chimney Rock still amazes, despite the erosion that has significantly shortened the spire since the time of the pioneers.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (8/10) Chimney Rock stands as a powerful landmark and an evocative reminder of the travails and emotions of the hardy 19th-century pioneers. We have experienced westward expansion through museums, books and even the venerable computer game Oregon Trail. The vision of Chimney Rock brought a remarkably more profound historical understanding. The pioneers all passed here, most camped in its shadow, their diaries all comment about it. They were nearing the west. Their trek across the Great Plains was nearly over.
CROWDS (6/10) Our visit was not altered by the sparse but steady crowd at Chimney Rock. A female English tourist dressed in full pioneer regalia intrigued us, but we left without asking her any questions.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5) Chimney Rock is located along Nebraska Route 26, a two-lane road that skirts the Platte River. While the landmark can easily be viewed from the Route 26, the road is over 40 miles from Interstate 80 and a round trip circuit to Chimney Rock from the Interstate will cost you over 100 miles.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5) A nice, if unremarkable, selection of books about both pioneer and Nebraska history.
COSTS (2/5) Admission into the Chimney Rock museum cost $3 per adult. The Site is run by the Nebraska State Historical Society and not the National Park Service. Because it is an affiliate site, the National Parks Pass is not valid.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5) There are no Rangers and no guides at the Site. The museum is fully self-guided.
TOURS/CLASSES (4/10) There is a small selection of exhibits to the right of the Receptionist’s Desk and a short 15-minute movie which runs on a loop. We did not see anything that compelled us to pay the $3 since we spent the morning at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Much of the material was similar. Instead, we perused the bookstore and went outside to view the Rock itself.
FUN (3/10) There is not much to do aside from view Chimney Rock from a distance. We entertained ourselves hamming it up and picture taking creatively using the grazing cows and Chimney Rock. The costumed Briton was curious. It helped that our friend Bruce was along for the ride. We wouldn’t go so far to say that Chimney Rock is fun.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (5/10) Chimney Rock shares the same historical significance as Scotts Bluff NM, which can also be reached via Route 26. If you are traveling across Nebraska, this is a nice alternate route, particularly if you are impatient to see the Rockies and want some diversion from the flat, flat landscape.
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