Scotts Bluff National Monument

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OVERVIEW: About this Audio-Described Brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Scotts Bluff National Monument's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two sided color brochure that visitors to Scotts Bluff receive. 

The brochure explores the history of the monument, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 30 minutes which we have divided into 24 sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. The brochure covers two pages and is folded into quarters. The front includes information regarding the history of the monument and surrounding area. The back page contains information about its geology and wildlife, as well as practical visitor information.

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OVERVIEW: Scotts Bluff National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument is a unit of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The three-thousand acre monument is located in the Panhandle of western Nebraska near the small town of Gering. 

The namesake of the monument, "Scotts Bluff", was a prominent landmark along the Emigrant Trails.  In 1851, the Oregon/California Trails were routed through Mitchell Pass around the bluff. That "bypass" cut the journey by eight miles. That's the equivalent of saving ten minutes at Interstate speeds. But back then it meant saving a full day of travel. 

The park preserves the geology, prairie ecosystem, and history of the site. Visitors to the monument can drive the 1.6-mile Summit Road to the top of the bluff, hike nearly 4 miles of trails, enjoy the William Henry Jackson collection of art, and learn about the unique geology and human history of this prominent landmark on the North Platte River. 

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OVERVIEW: Front Side of Brochure

A black banner runs across the top of the page. The banner is standard for National Park Service (NPS) site brochures. On the left side it identifies the site as Scotts Bluff. Below the banner is the top of an image of the bluff whose narrow tip extends into the banner behind the letters "B L" in the word Bluff. At the right edge is the NPS Arrowhead logo. The NPS Arrowhead logo is a brown textured arrowhead, point down. At top right, white text, National Park Service. At left, a tall tree. At bottom, a white bison stands on a green field ending in a distant tree line, a white lake at right. A snow-capped mountain towers behind. 

The caption to the left of the arrowhead reads "National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Monument, Nebraska." 

 The front side of the brochure introduces you to Scotts Bluff National Monument. The brochure contains text and images that explore the history of this landmark, the unique geology of the site, its flora and fauna and, perhaps more important, stories of the people who made history here.  It offers not only intriguing information but an invitation to explore this unique site.

The front page is dominated by a watercolor painting of a long wagon train winding its way around the base of the bluff. Other images capture the drama of pony express riders, Native Americans hunting bison, encounters with Native Americans, and the everyday drudgery of westward emigrants. 

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IMAGE and TEXT: Mitchell Pass

DESCRIBING: Watercolor painting that covers the top half of the front of the brochure.

SYNOPSIS: Teams of ox-drawn covered wagons move along a serpentine trail cut around the base of a towering bluff in a pastel landscape.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: Two men on horseback drive the ox team pulling the lead wagon. They flank the team, lashing whips in the air. The long-horned oxen are in heavy wooden yokes mounted on their necks, keeping them in tandem - two by two. Each wagon is pulled by several pairs of oxen. The oxen are brown/white or black/white in color. The lead wagon and successive trailing wagons are all plain, wooden wagons with dirty brown semi-circular cloth coverings. Large dust clouds follow the wagons that disappear on the horizon.

The deeply eroded wagon trail winds by the base of a towering sandstone cliff that sits above three successive rock terraces. The right side of the cliff is shear and the left side descends at a 45-degree angle. A few green shrubs dot the arid, yellow prairie landscape. 

Opposite from the cliff is a portion of the bluff that makes up the other side of the pass. In the far background a solitary domed butte rises against a hazy pale-yellow sky.


Artist William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) depicted a westbound wagon train crossing Mitchell Pass beneath Scotts Bluff. Other scenes of the West by Jackson appear below.

CREDIT: William Henry Jackson

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IMAGE and TEXT: Pony Express

DESCRIBING: Small portion of a larger watercolor painting. 

SYNOPSIS: A side view with a white background of a Pony Express rider and his horse as they speedily ride from right to left. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A man rides a reddish-brown horse with a black mane at full gallop, moving from right to left. His brown leather saddle has two visible mail-carrying pouches attached. All four of the horses’ hooves are in mid-air as if they were flying. The horse’s black tail streams behind and the horse’s muscles strain under a coat that glistens with sweat. White lather spills out of the horse’s mouth and flecks of lather spot its chest. 

The rider is dressed in buckskin tunic and tan trousers, a gray hat that is being blown back by the wind, and buckskin fringed gloves. His brown boot is calf-high and he wears spurs. The arch of his left foot rests firmly in the stirrup, the other blocked by the horse's body. Around his neck a red bandanna is loosely tied and is being blown back by the wind. He holds the reins in his left hand and a cocked pistol in his right. He looks over his left shoulder with a concerned frown and his eyes focus on whatever is pursueing him.


From 1860 to 1861 the Pony Express took the California Trail through Mitchell Pass near Scotts Bluff.

CREDIT: William Henry Jackson

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IMAGE and TEXT: Hunting Bison

DESCRIBING: Small watercolor painting. 

SYNOPSIS: A herd of hundreds of bison race across an open plain, pursued by two Native American hunters on horseback. Three covered wagons of frantic emigrants are caught up in the midst of the running herd.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A herd of running American Bison sweeps across the middle of the frame. There are more bison than we can count, and their hooves have kicked up clouds of dust that float around them.

In the foreground, two Native American men on horseback race alongside the bison in a hunt. The Native Americans are dressed only in loincloths. Their long dark hair streams back in the wind. The hunter in front rides a brown horse and carries a bow aimed at the bison in front of him. The hunter behind him rides a black and white pinto horse and holds a spear over his head ready to throw. One of the bison behind the hunters has crumpled to the ground, perhaps wounded by a hunter’s weapon.

Further back in the middle of the herd are three covered wagons drawn by oxen. The running bison surround the wagons, and the oxen are turning in confusion. A man works at the head of each team of wagons, trying to control the oxen. 

Far past the herd, a river winds across green plains. Distant mountains appear on the horizon, framed against the cloudy sky.


Left: Native Americans hunted bison for food, clothing, shelter, and life’s other necessities.

CREDIT: William Henry Jackson

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TEXT: A Memorable Landscape Feature

Below the painting of Scotts Bluff is the following text:

Scotts Bluff is a memorable landscape feature for all who travel along the North Platte River in western Nebraska. It seems timeless. Yet the immense sandstone and siltstone formation is gradually disappearing. Wind and water, which built the peaks, are dismantling the rock grain by grain (other side).

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IMAGE and TEXT: Fur Traders

DESCRIBING: A small watercolor painting. 

SYNOPSIS: From the right of the image two Native Americans approach a group of five European American fur traders in a mountain meadow. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: In the lower left-hand corner of this watercolor painting, a group of five fur traders congregate. All five are bearded and wear buckskin pants. Four of the five wear buckskin shirts, the other wears a black fabric shirt. All wear either fur or wide-brimmed hats. The 2 men on the far left of the image sit mounted on horses, holding the reins in their right hands, looking towards the approaching Native Americans.  A red blanket roll is draped over the back of the saddle of one horse.  The other three men stand. Two of them hold rifles in resting positions. The man closest to the Native Americans faces them, holding the reigns of his unmounted horse.

Approaching the fur traders, in the lower right-hand corner of the painting is a pair of Native Americans. Although it is difficult to make out any facial expressions, neither group seems threatened by the other. The man on the right is walking, facing the mountain men. He is wearing buckskin leggings and is wrapped in a black blanket with red fringe around the edges. He has two braids of hair that hang down in front of his ears and a single black bird’s feather projecting out of the hair on top of his head. To his left and behind him is another man, mounted on a light brown horse. He wears a blue jacket over a white shirt, leggings, and a single black feather in his hair. A red blanket is draped over the back of his horse. On the far right of the image and some distance behind the men is a line of three teepees. The teepees are tan colored with dark smoke markings around the top openings. Four people stand near the teepees, but far enough that no detail can be seen. To the right of the teepees is a single light brown horse. 

The interaction is taking place in a grassy, green meadow. Clusters of white flowers are scattered amongst the grasses. Low mountains, tree-covered and green, surround the meadow on the sides of the painting. On the right side is a red cliff band. Beyond the low mountains, in the upper right-hand portion of the painting, high, snowcapped peaks tower above the scene. The sky is an odd yellow-tan color.


Fur traders were among the first to profit from the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The United States gained 800,000 square miles of land, including Scotts Bluff.

CREDIT: William Henry Jackson

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TEXT: Sentinel of the Plains

About one-third down from the top, a black banner spans the page. White block letters spell out "Sentinel of the Plains." The text follows:

The North Platte River valley, chiseled through the plains of Nebraska and Wyoming, has been a prairie pathway for over 10,000 years. Native American hunters followed it to places where bison stopped to drink. Near Mitchell Pass, a huge bluff towers 800 feet above the valley floor. Its imposing size and the adjacent badlands inspired the name Me-a-pa-te, “hill that is hard to go around.”

The early 1800s brought other hunters to the plains. Trappers explored river valleys west of the Mississippi in search of “soft gold” — the pelts of fur-bearing animals. Seven fur company employees returning to the East were the first newcomers to find the North Platte route. They reached Me-a-pa-te on December 25, 1812.

Well-known to trappers by the 1820s, the bluff was also a familiar sight for others employed in the fur trade. Their caravans bore supplies westward to be exchanged for furs. A local legend maintains that when Rocky Mountain Fur Company clerk Hiram Scott died near Me-a-pa-te in 1828, the bluff was renamed for him.

The Oregon Trail, a 2,000-mile-long roadway to the Pacific Northwest, skirted the rugged Scotts Bluff terrain, taking a route well to the south. After 1850, during the peak of the California Gold Rush, many chose to travel through Mitchell Pass just south of the bluff. Called the California Trail, it shortened the journey by eight miles — a full day.

Clashes with Native Americans, though rare, led to the establishment of Fort Mitchell in 1864. An outpost of Fort Laramie, it was two and one-half miles northwest of Scotts Bluff. By 1867 the US Army abandoned Fort Mitchell. Emigrant traffic had waned and coast-to-coast telegraph wires strung through Mitchell Pass had long since replaced overland mail routes. In 1869 the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads linked up at Promontory, Utah. The Oregon Trail fell into disuse. In the next decades Scotts Bluff became a symbol that marked the end of the early emigrant waves in wagon trains, and a new wave who came by railroad. They were not just passing through the plains on their way somewhere else. They came to stay.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Emigrants and Handcarts

DESCRIBING: A small watercolor painting.

SYNOPSIS: Two handcarts, pulled and pushed by men, cross a knee-deep stream with rocky, sloping banks.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION:  The men in the foreground cart lean forward up the bank as they struggle to pull the heavy-laden carts loaded with a child and belongings through the water & up the side of the bank. The second cart walks midstream with water up to the men’s knees. In between the 2 carts a man carries a woman piggyback style across the water. Her washed-out blue dress is pushed up above her knees, exposing her bare calves. 

The two-wheeled carts have shallow, topless boxes with 2 parallel pull poles and a crossbar in front connected to the carts and extending forward. Each cart has 2 large, spoked wheels dripping with water and a small, black bucket hanging from the bottom back. The men all have beards and well-worn hats on their heads. The men's gray pants and tall boots are soaked to their knees and drip water as they walk onto the bank. Five of the men wear green, red or brown vests over white long-sleeved shirts. The other wears a faded red jacket. The children wear white long-sleeve, ankle-length dresses and shoes. 


By the early 1860s, emigrants, mail and freight carriers, stagecoaches, military expeditions, and the Pony Express all used the Oregon Trail. Some Mormon emigrants who had recently arrived from Europe could not afford draft animals. They moved their belongings in handcarts, often along the north bank of the North Platte River on a route parallel to the Oregon Trail (left).

CREDIT: William Henry Jackson

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IMAGE and TEXT: Reproduction Emigrant Trunk

DESCRIBING: A small color photograph.

SYNOPSIS: A wooden trunk with clothing draped over it and toys resting at its base. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A weathered wooden trunk sits with its lid hinged open. The interior of the trunk appears to be unfinished pine. The exterior is dark brown. The trunk is reinforced with two lath strips that wrap around the trunk. A blue, calico dress lies draped over the right half of the trunk and its open lid. A white piece of cloth is draped over the left side of the trunk, while a red calico bonnet rests on top of the back portion of the white cloth. In front of the base of the trunk are three items. On the left side is a wicker basket filled with unidentified objects. To the right of the basket is a Jacob’s Ladder toy. Sitting on its side, it is a zig zag of wooden strips strung together with black ribbon. Next to that is a Dancing Dan toy resting on a small wooden plank. The Dancing Dan toy is a wooden figurine with flexible limbs. It lies on its left side with its flexible limbs stretching from its torso. Two large eyes peer from the face while two red painted buttons decorate the middle of the person's chest. 


Above: Reproduction emigrant trunk and contents held possessions from back East. 


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IMAGE and TEXT: Thunderstorm

DESCRIBING: A gray and white sketch

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: Ten covered wagons line up in a tight row facing from the right side of the image diagonally to the upper left corner. The ominous lightening-laden sky produces streaks of straight white lines of rain piercing diagonally from the left onto the wagons. The wagon tarps are drawn tight against their stays to keep the coverings from blowing away in the storm. Men angle against the wind, hold onto their hats, and huddle along the wagons’ sides, looking over their shoulders toward the storm. Some of the men wear long trench coats, while others wear shorter jackets. Their boots stand in water. The group in the righthand foreground tries to raise a tarp to protect the two men attempting to cook over a fire. One of the men seated around the fire is forced backward by the strong wind. 


Below: Emigrants were forced to travel and camp in all types of weather, including severe thunderstorms like the one depicted in this ink wash drawing by William Henry Jackson.


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TEXT: Milepost for the Migration West

A black bar extends across the bottom third of the page. White block letters inside the bar identify the following text as "Milepost for the Migration West." The text follows:

Some newcomers to the Great Plains had given up hope for prosperity in the East and looked westward for land, wealth, or religious freedom. Others emigrated for different reasons. It is estimated that from 1841 to 1869 about 350,000 people joined wagon trains that departed from points along the Missouri River and set out on the California and Oregon trails.

An early advocate of Oregon settlement proclaimed the route “easy, safe, and expeditious,” but travelers found it otherwise. Many walked beside their 10-by-4-foot, canvas- topped wagons to lighten the load for draft animals. Each mile was hard-won. They contended with unpredictable temperatures, violent winds, quicksand, floods, disease, bison stampedes, and sometimes, conflicts with Native Americans.

When the skyline along the Platte River began to reveal its distinctive features, emigrants knew for sure they were in the West. Scotts Bluff was a sight that loomed in the distance for days before the wagon trains reached it. Travelers called it “a Nebraska Gibraltar” and “a Mausoleum which the mightiest of earth might covet.” “I could die here,” rhapsodized one voyager, “certain of being not far from heaven.” Yet few spent time at the bluff. Wary of being caught on the road when winter arrived, they moved on, grateful at least that a third of the trail lay behind them.

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OVERVIEW: Back Side of Brochure

The back side contains text and images relating to the geology, wildlife, and natural history of Scotts Bluff. There are also trip planning details and a map.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Scotts Bluff Photo & Inset Diagram

DESCRIBING: A color photograph with an inset diagram at the bottom.  

SYNOPSIS: A photograph of a pyramid-shaped, gray and tan, rock bluff with a sheer face. Inset, at the bottom of the photo is a diagram of the different layers of rock that make up the bluff. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: The photograph of the bluff extends into the black bar at the top of the page. A white label in the bar reads; “Exploring Scott’s Bluff.” The view of the bluff is at a slight angle with the widest face running across the front of the image and rounding to the right side. A bright blue sky with wisps of white clouds surrounds the bluff. Prominent bands of alternating lighter and darker colored rock run horizontally through the bluff. The top half of the bluff is shear and sits, as if on a table, on a base with a gentler grade with scattered patches of green vegetation.

The inset diagram depicts the same bluff from the photo. The upper pyramid is colored green/tan. The base below the pyramid is gray. There is text to the right of the image with arrows identifying and explaining the various layers of rock. The top line is labeled “CAP ROCK - 22 mya”. The three layers below the cap are labeled “SANDSTONE”. This sandstone layer is further broken into thirds by two layers of shaded, gray lines that are labeled “VOLCANIC ASH”. The top line is thicker than the line below it. The bottom base illustration is brown and labeled “SILTSTONE - 31 mya”. There is a distinct, uneven black line separating the sandstone and siltstone layers.

CREDIT: Background image and diagram - NPS


A black bar with a white label runs across the top of the diagram. The label reads “Five Hundred Feet of Great Plains Past.” Scotts Bluff is a remnant of ancestral high plains that were hundreds of feet higher than today’s Great Plains. Eagle Rock (above and right) reveals layers of material deposited by wind, water, and volcanic eruptions. The layers are like a 10-million-year timeline of the ancient plains’ development. Why did the ancestral plains disappear? Four to five million years ago (mya), the land began to erode faster than new material was deposited. Some patches of limestone resisted erosion, shielding the layers below. These cap rocks have protected Scotts Bluff from the same fate as the adjacent badlands. Scotts Bluff survives as a chapter in human history, but also as a chapter in the remote geological past.

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TEXT: Hardy Inhabitants of the Great American Desert

Explorer Stephen H. Long, traveling in the early 1800s, described the high, dry land from Nebraska to Oklahoma as the Great American Desert. Here, on the east side of the Rockies, the region gets little rain. Strong winds travel unchecked across the plains. Temperatures range from over 100°F to -40°F. It may have seemed a cold, high desert to Long, but these extremes created a thriving world of interdependent plants and animals — the world of the prairie.

Emigrants of the 1800s planned to arrive here after grasses began to grow in the spring. Too early a start would result in limited grazing for livestock; a late start would expose caravans to severe winter weather.

Newcomers quickly learned that blue grama and buffalo grass have dense roots that create thick, sturdy sod. They used this native material to build homes, called soddies.

In summer, bright wildflowers blanket the prairie. Other plants include clump-forming grasses —little bluestem, western wheatgrass, and needle-and-thread. Ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain juniper, with its small blue-gray cones or berries, grow on the northern slopes of the bluff. All hold soil in the plains’ windy, flood-prone climate.

Most prairie plants are habitat for animals. Magpies and kestrels find shelter year-round in stunted trees, where swifts and cliff swallows nest in summer. Mice, rabbits, prairie dogs, and pocket gophers live partly underground, hidden from predators like fox, badgers, coyotes, and snakes.

Highly adaptable animals like white-tailed and mule deer also roam the park. Other animals once common on the plains —  elk, bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and grizzly bear — disappeared as more people came here to farm. These animals are now isolated or in protected reserves.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Prairie Rattlesnake

DESCRIBING: A small color photograph. 1 of 4 in a horizontal row across the brochure.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A prairie rattlesnake lies coiled like a spring with only the first coil on the ground and three others spiraled vertically. Its head, looking at us, is pulled tight up and back against the body of the last coil ready for an immediate strike. Its distinctive desert camouflage of brown, white, and tan, in diamond patterns, is exposed in the bright sunlight highlighting its dry scales. The brown and tan background is blurred, with the foreground showing fine-grained dirt which perfectly matches the camouflage of the snake. WATCH OUT!!

CAPTION: Prairie rattlesnake

CREDIT: Barbara Magnuson and Larry Kimball

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IMAGE and TEXT: Plains Wallflower

DESCRIBING: A small color photograph. 2 of four in a horizontal row.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A plant with a mounded cluster of brilliant yellow flowers grows on bare brown soil. The flowers rest on the top of a single slender, dark green stalk. Skinny, green leaves alternate from the base of the stalk. Each yellow flower consists of four, rounded petals arranged around a central point that is the same shade of yellow as the surrounding petals. The brown background is out of focus.

CAPTION: Plains wallflower

CREDIT: Mark Turner

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IMAGE and TEXT: Mule Deer

DESCRIBING: A small color photograph. 3 of 4 in a horizontal row.

SYNOPSIS: An alert buck (male) mule deer is seen in profile with his head turned looking directly at us. His large, upright, oblong ears have furry, white centers. Behind his ears, his majestic 8-point rack of antlers extends in a U-shape above his head. This rack is a trunk on each side of his head that divides into two branches, each branch divides again into two smaller branches. His intent black eyes are on the sides of his head which tapers to his white muzzle and large black nose. His large white throat flows into his muscular, coffee brown body with the black shadows of antlers showing on his back. His off-set, slender, coffee brown legs are primed to bolt. The buck is framed by a bright blue sky above a field of amber, short-grass prairie sod that tickles his stomach and waves in the wind.

CAPTION: Mule deer

CREDIT: Michael H. Francis

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IMAGE and TEXT: Black-tailed Prairie Dogs

DESCRIBING: A small color photograph. Last of 4 in a horizontal row.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: Two prairie dogs look to the right of the image in a state of high alert. The prairie dog on the left stands on the side of a donut-shaped mound of dirt excavated from its burrow. Its face bears a bewildered expression with whiskers that project from its muzzle. Its front legs rest at the sides of its lighter colored belly. The prairie dog on the right is peering out of its burrow and can only be seen from the shoulders up. The prairie dogs are tan in color with black eyes, nose and mouth. Their chests are ovals of white fur outlined in black that taper to a point below their chins. In the out of focus background, green vegetation is interspersed with brown soil.

CAPTION: Black-tailed prairie dogs

CREDIT: Greg Beaumont

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MAP: Scotts Bluff National Monument

DESCRIBING: A wayfinding map of Scotts Bluff National Monument and the surrounding area.

SYNOPSIS: This small, horizontally oriented, rectangular, color map provides an overview of Scotts Bluff National Monument property and lands immediately adjacent to the monument. The map is oriented with north at the top. The monument is approximately 3 miles wide west to east and 4 miles wide north to south, with an irregular, roughly rectangular boundary. The map depicts the following information about the monument: 

  • Roads connecting to Scotts Bluff National Monument.
  • The natural features, and other points of interest, within the National Monument.
  • The roads (marked with red lines), hiking trails (marked with black dashed lines), and bicycle trails (marked with green dotted lines) within the National Monument.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: Scotts Bluff National Monument is located just west of the city of Gering, Nebraska, and south of the North Platte River.

The Visitor Center is located on the north side of a road called Old Oregon Trail, which runs generally southeast to northwest within the boundaries of the national monument. To the southeast, Old Oregon Trail curves to due east, and becomes M Street in the city of Gering, about 2 miles from the Visitors Center. Further east, M Street leads to route 92 and the Chimney Rock National Historic Site. To the northwest, Old Oregon Trail curves to due north, and leads toward routes 92, 29, 26, the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.

North of the city of Gering, across the North Platte River, is the city of Scottsbluff. Two north/south roads connect Gering with Scottsbluff: Five Rocks Road, about 1.5 miles east of the Visitor Center, and 10th Street, about 3/4 mile farther east. Five Rocks Road southbound leads to route 71 and I-80.

There is also a bicycle trail, called the Prairie View Trail, that goes east from the Visitor Center. The Prairie View Trail goes about 1.2 miles, crosses the east boundary of the National Monument, and then continues east, along an unlabeled road, for about another mile, into the city of Gering. 

Most of the features of the National Monument are near the Visitor Center, on the north side of Old Oregon Trail. Scotts Bluff, about 1.5 miles long, runs generally from southwest to northeast. At the southwest end of the bluff, rising from Mitchell Pass, is Eagle Rock, about a quarter mile from the Visitor Center, as the crow flies. About a mile farther along the bluff is the South Overlook, and another mile farther, the North Overlook. The elevation of Scotts Bluff is 4649 feet (1417 meters).

A road and a hiking trail lead from the Visitor Center towards the top of Scotts Bluff and the North and South Overlooks. The road passes Eagle Rock along the way, then goes through three tunnels before reaching the summit area from the west side. The hiking trail, called Saddle Rock Trail, climbs 435 feet. Along the way it passes Scotts Spring, then continues upward passing through a tunnel, and switchbacks higher up the bluff before reaching the summit from the east side. Two other hiking trails originate at the summit terminus of the road and lead to the North and South Overlooks. 

Another hiking trail, called the Oregon Trail Pathway, leads northwest from the Visitor Center, alongside the road called Old Oregon Trail. About a half mile long, this hiking trail goes through Mitchell Pass and follows portions of the Oregon National Historic Trail. The historic trail route is not maintained for hiking, but it continues north and west and past the northwest boundary of the national monument.

On the south side of Old Oregon Trail, there are no roads or marked trails, but there are several natural features. About a quarter mile south of the road is Sentinel Rock. A ridge continues southward from Sentinel Rock, for about a mile, where it branches to the west, east, and southeast on South Bluff. About a half mile on the east branch is Crown Rock. About a mile on the southeast branch is Dome Rock.

Just north of Scotts Bluff is an area labeled "Badlands", with no roads, trails, or labeled features. The North Platte River runs along the northeast boundary of the monument and these badland rock formations.

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TEXT: Planning Your Visit

Planning Your Visit

The visitor center has exhibits, a film, bookstore, and a display of works by William Henry Jackson. Call or check the park website for hours. A short trail leads to Jackson’s 1866 campsite; summit trails go to overlooks. Saddle Rock Trail (1.6 miles) links the summit and visitor center. Cars are allowed on the road to the summit. Trailers and RVs are prohibited; take the Summit Shuttle instead.

For a Safe Visit

Seek shelter if a storm approaches. • Rattlesnakes are shy but may strike if threatened; follow safety tips posted in the park and on the website. • Do not litter, disturb wildlife, or deface signs. • Federal laws protect all natural and cultural features in the park. • Keep pets on a six-foot leash. • Stay on roads and trails. • For firearms regulations check the park website.

Getting to the Park

From I-80, exit at Kimball, NE, and drive 45 miles north on NE 71. From Gering, follow National Park Service signs three miles west to the visitor center on Old Oregon Trail.

Emergencies call 911

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OVERVIEW: More Information

Scotts Bluff National Monument

PO Box 27

Gering, NE 69341-0027


Scotts Bluff National Monument is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. Learn more at

Use the official NPS App to guide your visit.

National Park Foundation. Join the park community.

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

We strive to make facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to the visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check the park website

Visitor Center: There are two designated accessible parking spaces with marked aisles for van access in the main lot at the visitor center. The path from the parking area to the visitor center is about 75 yards. There are two benches near the entrance doors. The visitor center main entrance is a double door. Doors open out. The visitor center front desk features a lowered interaction space to accommodate wheelchair users.  A wheelchair and walker are available for use in the museum and on the paved trails.

Restrooms: Restrooms are behind the visitor center front desk and to the right.  Both restrooms have manual doors and baby changing stations. The men's room door pushes open. The ladies room door pulls open. A bench outside the restrooms wraps around a corner wall. It does not have arm rests or a back. Another restroom is located on the east side of the visitor center (right of the entrance). It typically remains open even when the visitor center is closed and features a single stall with a manual door that pushes open. 

Park film: Park film theater seating is made of movable chairs, with ample space available for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. The 14-minute-long park film is open captioned. The film is not audio described. 

Exhibits: Exhibits throughout the visitor center have wide aisles and approaches. Two benches with arm rests and backs are available in the exhibit areas. A tactile map is available in a room in the southwest corner of the building. 

Summit Area: Two accessible parking spaces are located at the summit parking area. From the parking lot, paved trails lead to two summit overlooks.

The South Overlook is approximately 300 yards (274 meters) from the parking lot. Access to the North Overlook is by a 16% uphill path of about 60 yards (55 meters). It will take you to a level looping trail system which is about 150 yards (137 meters) long. Several overlooks from the summit will reveal the North Platte Valley. The remaining 100 yards (91 meters) contains a steep downhill grade of 19% with dropoffs on either side.

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