Independence Rock is in Central Wyoming and was a famous landmark along the Oregon Trail and other pioneer trails heading west. It rises about 130 feet above the surrounding landscape and is near the Granite Mountains. It, however, is unique as it is a monolith, a singular granite dome, that stands out on its own. It is about 1900' long and 850' wide. If you were to walk around the base of the rock it would be more than a mile.
I've heard two stories on how it was named - one is that Independence Rock was named because if the west-bound pioneers reached the rock by Independence Day, July 4, they were on track for reaching Oregon before heavy snows fell. Another is that William Sublette, who held an Independence Day celebration here on July 4, 1830, as he led the first wagon train to cross the new overland route. Before an audience of 80 pioneers, he christened the rock in honor of the birth date of our nation.
This rock bears the signatures of many of these pioneers. Please do not alter any of these historic carvings! It is on the register of National Historic Places and a State Historic Site.
The rock was a signal to the pioneers that they would soon be along the Sweetwater River and by following it upstream they would in turn be crossing the Continental Divide at South Pass.
Take Hwy 220 about 60 miles southwest of Casper. Or, from Rawlins, take Hwy 287 north to Muddy Gap then turn right on Hwy 220 (a distance of 63 miles). There is a highway rest area near the base of the rock, or you can park a little to the north down a short road which has easier access to the northside of the rock, which is the easier side should you decide to scramble to the top of the rock. It's a great view, so definitely worth the little bit of effort to scramble up it!
No defacing or writing on the rock.
No gathering of artifacts (anything found must be left there or turned over to State Park personnel on site.)
Metal detectors are not allowed.
The discharge of firearms and fireworks is prohibited.
Vehicle parking in designated areas only.
Dogs, cats and other pets must be kept on a leash.
No killing of wildlife, including rattlesnakes.
Please pack out your own trash.
Granite weathers in a pattern known as exfoliation. As Independence Rock was slowly uncovered by erosion, the immense pressures of the weight of overlying rock were gradually lessened. The rock then expanded outwardly shedding its surface layers like an onion. Layers of granite broke off, one after the other and formed the rounded shape you see today.
Windblown sand and silt have grooved the rock and polished it to a high gloss in a process called “windfaceting.” It is because of this smooth surface that the pioneers were able to easily carve their names into the rock.
It was the names carved in stone here that caused Father Peter J. DeSmet to appropriately name this place “The Register of the Desert” in 1840.
As you walk around the rock. or climb it, you will see hundreds of names carved or chipped into the surface. Possibly one of the earliest signatures to be found here is that of “M.K. Hugh, 1824.” Other early names include “Hanna Snow, 1844,” “G. Gingham, 1846,” “J. Bower, 1847,” “Milo Ayer, age 29, 1849,” “W.H. Collins, July 4, 1862,” and “V.D. Moody, July 24, 1849.”
External LinksUSGS page on Independence Rock including lots of great photographs