First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.
Landing number 2134; A Landing A Day blog post number 562.
Dan: After my 6/7 USer run, now it’s four OSers in a row, thanks to this landing in . . . NE; 58/54; 5/10; 10; 147.3.
Here’s my regional landing map:
My local landing shows my proximity to the titular rocks:
I mean, really. I’m a geologist, and it makes me happy to write about rocks. But before we talk about rocks, we have some usual ALAD business to attend to. First, here’s my watershed analysis:
So, I landed in the Middle Fork of Pumpkin Creek, on to Pumpkin Creek, on to the North Platte (28th hit); on to the Platte (61st hit); on to the Missouri (359th hit); on to the MM (837 hits).
Now wait a minute. I landed in the watershed of Pumpkin Creek my last landing – the Broadus Montana post. What are the chances of two Pumpkin Creek landings in a row? A little research reveals that I’ve landed in a Pumpkin Creek watershed only one other time. And get this – it was way back in landing 33 – in May 1999 (it was my first Arkansas landing!). Then, no Pumpkin Creeks until landings 2133 & 2134! Amazing! What are the odds of getting two Pumpkin Creeks in a row after 2100 landings with no Pumpkin Creeks?
Time for my Google Earth (GE) trip to my landing:
Now, on to the rocks. I’ll start with Jail & Courthouse. Here’s a GE shot looking south past the rocks towards my landing:
And here’s Wiki photo of the two rocks:
The National Park Service has this to say:
Located near present-day Bridgeport, the Courthouse and Jail Rocks are the erosional remnants of an ancient plateau that was bisected by the North Platte River. The rocks rise about 250 feet above nearby Pumpkin Creek. The Courthouse and Jail Rocks were the first monumental rock features that emigrants would encounter heading west, and like Chimney Rock, these rock structures have long been recognized by Oregon Trail, California Trail and Mormon Trail pioneers as prominent landmarks on the transcontinental journey west.
Like Chimney Rock, the Courthouse and Jail Rocks went by a series of names before arriving at their current designations. Because of Courthouse Rock’s grand and imposing appearance, many emigrants described the rock in terms of a large public building, naming it the Castle or the Courthouse.
When viewed at distance from the east, the Courthouse and Jail Rocks appear to merge into a large, single unit, and descriptions sometimes referred to them as a single formation, the Solitary Tower or the Lonely Tower. Once travelers approached Courthouse Rock, however, the second, smaller escarpment, the Jail Rock, became visually distinct. Though travelers applied various titles to both features, by the 1840s, most people used the names Courthouse and Jail.
Hundreds of overland emigrants mentioned Courthouse Rock in their diaries. One 1845 traveler described the rock as “resembling the ruins of an old castle that rises abruptly from the plain. . . .It is difficult to look upon it and not believe that an artist had something to do with its construction.”
Moving about 12 miles west, we run into Chimney Rock (featured in my Bayard NE post of June 2010). Here’s a GE shot looking past Chimney Rock towards my landing (but GE doesn’t do Chimney Rock justice):
Here’s what Wiki has to say:
Chimney Rock is a famous, prominent geological rock formation in western Nebraska, rising nearly 300 feet above the surrounding North Platte River valley. During the middle 19th century it served as a landmark along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail, which ran along the north side of the rock. It is visible for many miles from the east along U.S. Route 26.
The pillar consists primarily of hardened clay interlayered with volcanic ash and sandstone. The harder sandstone layers near the top have protected the pillar since it broke away from the retreating cliff line to the south.
Here’s a shot of Chimney Rock, also showing the rock formation which has “retreated” from the Chimney:
By the way, Courthouse & Jail rocks were also remnants of a retreating rock formation, it’s just less obvious.
The National Park Service also has this to say about Chimney Rock:
An impressive curiosity to modern travelers, Chimney Rock was a, “grand and splendid object,” to 19th century emigrants, who had never seen the geological wonders of the American West. On June 27, 1849, Elisha Perkins was humbled and awed by his visit to this remarkable curiosity when he wrote, “we camped opposite to & about 1 mile from Chimney Rock. I had some curiosity to see this . . . no conception can be formed of the magnitude of this grand work of nature until you stand at its base & look up. If a man does not feel like an insect then I don’t know when he should.”
Because Chimney Rock is much thinner, it’s more fragile and more obviously susceptible to erosion. This can be seen in a series of photos, presented by NebraskaHistory.org:
Frederick Piercy, who drew this view, saw Chimney Rock in 1853. He portrayed its column as tall and rectangular:
In 1929 (76 years later) Emil Kopac of Oshkosh, Nebraska, captured Chimney Rock from the north side as did Piercy. The rock appeared more pointed, less like a chimney:
Here’s a photo, also from the 1920’s:
The very same sodhouse from the above photo had fallen into ruin by 1977. Note that the spire is shorter:
I’ll close with this Nat Geo shot of Chimney, followed by a Michael Forsberg Photography shot of Jail & Courthouse:
That’ll do it.
© 2014 A Landing A Day