Originally called the Emigrant Road, the Oregon Trail was the main route of westward expansion from 1812 to 1869. An estimated 500,000 people journeyed past here in search of new lands and new lives in the West.
Because of its unique shape, Split Rock was a well known trail landmark and navigation aid. Emigrants were guided by the rock for an entire day's travel from the east. It remained in view behind them for another two days. From Split Rock, it was about six days to South Pass, the gateway to the Great Salt Lake Valley, California's gold fields and the Pacific Northwest.
Emigrants on the Oregon and the Mormon Pioneer Trails coming from Devil's Gate, 12 miles east, often camped below this point on the Sweetwater River where good grass and water were available for stock. West of here, ruts carved in the rocks by iron wheeled wagons are still visible. Generally, Mormon emigrants tried to stay on the opposite side of the river from the main trail to avoid confrontations with other also heading West.
In 1844, James Clyman recorded this in his journal about this spot.
"(August) 17. Smokey But the sun rose over the Eastern mountains in its usual majesty. Some recent Signs of a war party of Indians ware discovered yestarddy which caused some uneasiness...roled up the Stream on the South Side...the most rugged bare granite rocks lay along the North side close to the water...saw some fine herds of Ibex or wild sheep some of which were taken and found to be very fine eating...This region seems to be the refuses of the world thrown up in the utmost confusion."