Independence Rock

Date: 1/1/2012
Principal Researchers:
  • Kat Vlahos
  • Mike Nulty
  • Julia Ausloos
Location: Rawlins, WY

A large granite rock in southwestern Natrona County, Wyoming, Independence Rock stands today as a landmark of great importance. In the 19th century, Independence Rock was a milestone for emigrants migrating with their wagons from the East Coast to the Western frontiers of the country along the Oregon trail, also known as the "Emigrant Trail." Independence Rock may have derived its name from a band of fur trappers who celebrated the American Independence Day in 1930 at the site- but more likely, Independence Rock earned its name as a beacon for emigrants to reach before the 4th of July. If emigrants failed to do this, they endangered their lives and the lives of their dependents as snow and severe weather enveloped the Sierra Mountains. Many emigrants inscribed their name, date, and sometimes other personal details into the rock as they visited en route to the Western frontier. Over the decades, many inscriptions faded due to weathering, erosion, vandalism, and more commonly, lichens. Independence Rock was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and is now part of Independence Rock State Historic Site, owned and operated by the state of Wyoming.

In 2012, the University of Colorado Denver, with the support of the National Park Service, digitally preserved Independence Rock. This web portal integrates the highly-accurate laser scan data of the site with a rich collection of historic documentation, including photographs, video footage, drawings, and documents.

This project was undertaken by the National Park Service, Intermountain Region, in cooperation with CyArk and the University of Colorado Denver, Center of Preservation Research.

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