Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Register Cliff,

Located just a short drive from Guernsey, Wyoming you will find a sandstone bluff covered in historic graffiti. My family and I made a trip there several years ago now, and it was so cool to see this evidence of travelers along the Oregon Trail. It made me wonder at the hundreds of stories, the thousands of people who had passed along that trail, leaving one life behind, reaching ahead to fulfill a dream. Were they exhausted? Were they still hopeful? Were they regretting their choice to strike out to cross the enormous continent and leave everything they'd known, families, homes, cities. Bravery, desperation, dreams, hopes. What motivated them to venture so far into the unknown

One of my favorite inscriptions is by Wagon-master Tex Serpa, who led a wagon train past Register Cliff in 1859.

Another popular inscription is that of G. O. Willard, formerly of Boston, who passed along the cliff in 1855. I have to wonder how the Bostonian was faring, having crossed the Great Plains, traversed hostile Indian country (and heading into more) with the mountains looming ahead.

Register Cliff is a sandstone cliff and featured key navigational landmark prominently listed in the 19th century guidebooks about the Oregon Trail, and a place where many emigrants chiseled the names of their families on the soft stones of the cliff —it was one of the key checkpoint landmarks for parties heading west along the Platte River valley west of Fort John, Wyoming which allowed travelers to verify they were on the correct path up to South Pass and not moving into impassable mountain terrains—geographically, it is on the eastern ascent of the Continental divide leading upward out of the great plains in the east of the U.S. state of Wyoming. It is notable as a historic landmark for 'registering' hundreds of emigrants on the Oregon Trail (thus also the other northern Emigrant Trails that split off farther west such as the California Trail and Mormon Trail) who came to follow custom and inscribed their names on its rocks during the western migrations of the 19th century. An estimated 500,000 emigrants used these trails from 1843–1869, with up to one-tenth dying along the way, usually due to disease. Register Cliff is the easternmost of the three prominent emigrant "recording areas" located within Wyoming, the other two being Independence Rock and Names Hill.

Have you ever been to Register Cliff? What would you like to inscribe to leave a record of your passage?


  1. I've seen lots of things out west, but not this one. Thanks for sharing something I can put on my bucket list!

  2. I've never been further west than New Orleans unfortunately. I've often thought about the courage of those traveling to new destinations and the perils they encountered along the way. The most fascinating to me is the story of the Donner Party.

  3. My family and I visited this spot in 1995 or 1997. Another thing I remember is standing in the wagon trail ruts.

  4. This reminds me of 98 Rock, on Wilkes Island, part of Wake atoll.

    After Wake fell to the Japanese, most of the Marines and civilian contractors (working for Morrison-Knudsen) were eventually sent to the Home Islands, and then many went onward to camps in China.

    But 99 contractors were kept on Wake, and in May, 1943, the Japanese commandant decided to kill them. An American raid made him fear that the US would try to retake the atoll, and he claimed he didn't want the prisoners staging an uprising.

    So he took them to a beach, had them dig a trench and sit on its edge, bound hand and foot...and machine-gunned them.

    But one man escaped, and made his way to Wilkes Island, a small sandspit off the end of the main island. There was no escape for him, but he had to do something.

    So he carved "98 US PW 5-10-43": into a large coral boulder.

    He was recaptured, and killed soon after.

    If you can get to Wake (not easy), you can make your way to Wilkes and kneel by 98 Rock, and say a prayer for those who were murdered, and the one man whose name will never be known, but who left a written witness.

  5. Such an interesting post, Erica!! Thank you!!

    I haven't seen the places you mentioned, but would love to. We probably can't even imagine the problems these families faced!!


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