The Chimney Rock is one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in Morrill County in western Nebraska in the United States. A remnant of the erosion of the bluffs at the edge of the North Platte Valley, the slender spire with a conical base rises nearly 300 feet above the surrounding valley and is visible for many miles from the east along U.S. Route 26. The imposing formation is composed of layers of volcanic ash and Brule clay dating back to the Oligocene Age - 34 million to 23 million years ago. It is located approximately four miles south of present-day Bayard in Millard County.
Chimney Rock shot to popularity during the middle of the 19th century when emigrants traveling along the Oregon, California and Mormon Trail spotted it on their journeys across Nebraska. Approximately 350,000 settlers passed by Chimney Rock, and hundreds of them mentioned it in their journal entries. Those who followed began to use it as a landmark. Many nineteenth century travelers stopped to marvel at this natural curiosity. Many felt compelled to carve their names on Chimney Rock, although very few inscriptions lasted long.
The first recorded mention of 'Chimney Rock' was in 1827 by Joshua Pilcher who had journeyed up the Platte River valley to the Salt Lake rendezvous of the Rocky Mountain fur trappers. In those days the rock was referred to by a variety of names including Chimley Rock, Chimney Tower, and Elk's Peak, but Chimney Rock had become the most commonly used name by the 1840s.
Based on sketches, paintings, written accounts, and a few early photographs, it is believed that the spire was about 30 feet higher than it is now. Wind, erosion and lightning could have caused the spire to break off. In a 1992 lightning strike Chimney Rock suffered a 5-foot loss in height all at once.
Chimney Rock was designated a National Historic Site in 1956.
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