Chimney Rock is one of those Oregon Trail landmarks that can’t be missed if you’re anywhere nearby. The landmark even found its way onto the Nebraska-themed quarter minted in 2006.

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The rock has been a landmark for travelers for nearly two centuries. About half a million pioneers passed by it on their way west between 1812 and 1866, and it is considered the most famous landmark along the Oregon-California Trail. It rises roughly 325 feet above the valley floor, with a trademark spire of 120 feet.

Chimney Rock was designated a National Historic Site on Aug. 9, 1956, and is maintained and operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Built in 1994, the center is operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society and is also known as the Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center. It is about 1.5 miles south of Highway 92 on Chimney Rock Road.

The center offers a close-up look at the nearby formation. Exhibits explain how the rock was formed and offer visitors an opportunity to touch a stone collected from the base of the formation. They feature diary entries from pioneer travelers, numerous sketches, a time line of the overland migration, museum pieces and a gift shop with a collection of books about the site. An auditorium offers visitors the chance to see a 15-minute film about its role in America’s history.

Read the full article by Steve Frederick in the January 7, 2009 edition of the North Platte Telegraph.