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View Full List of National Register: Wyoming Listings

Register Cliff


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Register Cliff consists of a soft, chalky, limestone precipice rising over 100 feet above the valley floor of the North Platte River. The horizontal features of the cliff were created thousands of years ago by the erosive action of the river waters cutting through layers of soft sedimentary deposits. Register Cliff is a link to the romantic era of overland migration in Western America. It was an important mid-19th century landmark along the route of travel to Oregon and California and a place where countless emigrants inscribed names, dates, origins and messages in the soft limestone cliff faces. Although inscriptions are found at numerous places along the trail, Register Cliff represents one of the three best known ''registers of the desert'' -- the other two being Independence Rock and Names Hill.

Register Cliff was the first night camp west after leaving Fort Laramie. Under the shadow of the chalky bluffs on the south bank of the Platte River the emigrants paused to set up camp, to pasture their animals, and to rest and recoup from the hardships of trail travel. This stopover gave the wayfarers time to record the names and dates which have now become an enduring aspect of an historic era. Many of the names and dates at Register Cliff relate to the peak years of travel along the trail during the 1840's and 1850's. Several states are well-represented in the carvings with Ohio seemingly in the majority. It is likely that the cliff and its surroundings were a familiar stopping place during the fur trade era but inscriptions dating to this period that may have existed at one time have apparently weathered away. The earliest known date reads: ''1829 This July 14'', perhaps placed there by some French trapper or explorer to commemorate Bastille Day. One unusual series of names, representing three generations of Register Cliff scribes, are those of T.H. Unthank dated 1850, O.N. Unthank, 1869, and O.A. Unthank, 1931.

Charles A. Guernsey, a pioneer cattleman after whom the town of Guernsey, Wyoming is named, established his ranch buildings a short distance from Register Cliff in the 1890's. Guernsey's successor to the ranch, Henry Frederick, donated the site to the State of Wyoming to be preserved as a memorial to the spirit and accomplishments of the pioneers.


Date Added to Register:
Friday, April 03, 1970
Platte County
Smithsonian Number: 


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