"Sunday Jun 15. Traveled 25 miles, about one mile from the springs is Prospect Hill. It is a delightful view, and here you can see the range of Sweet water mountains..." Excerpt from the 1851 journal of Amelia Hadley in Covered Wagon Women Volume 3.
Independence Rock is an isolated dome of the same composition as the mountains that flank the Sweetwater River Valley. Polished by ancient winds, it rises near the first point of contact with the river for emigrants following the westward trails. Jesuit priest Father Pierre-Jean De Smet in 1840 designated this landmark as "the Great Register of the Desert" for the many carved names that adorned its flanks. While various explanations for the name "Independence Rock" occur in emigrant diaries, some sources attribute it to William Sublette's trading party, which stopped at the site on July 4, 1830.
Six miles west and within site of Independence Rock is a dramatic cleft in the granite mountains shadowing the Sweetwater River. Known as Devil's Gate, the narrow passage at its base allows only room enough for the stream to force its way through as it flows toward the North Platte River, with no accommodation for wagons along its sheer rocky banks. The emigrant trails pass by
to the south of Devil's Gate. Its name is attributed by early travelers to John C. Fremont, who ascended and mapped the North Platte and Sweetwater Rivers with guide Kit Carson in 1842.
The work of glaciers, wind, weather extremes, and flowing water created the Sweetwater River Valley over hundreds of centuries. Granite cliffs that are visible today on either side of the meandering stream became rounded and worn by these relentless geologic forces and sandy soils resulted from their erosion. Landmarks along the trail of Westward migration are identified for modern highway travelers within view of the Sweetwater River. Shown above is Split Rock, first photographed by William Henry Jackson in 1870. Its distinctive outline is visible for miles in all directions.