The wayfarer's penchant for inscribing names and dates on prominent landmarks excites the interest of his descendants. Regrettably, marks of historic value are often effaced by later opportunists.
Along the Oregon Trail, famed transcontinental route of the 19th century, pertinent dates are from the 1820's through the 1860's. Three outstanding recording areas exist within Wyoming: Register Cliff here; Independence Rock, 180 miles west; and Names Hill, a further 175 miles along the Trail's wandering course. Register Cliff and Names Hill are self-evident titles; Independence Rock derives from a July 4th 1825 observance which, according to some authorities, was staged by Mountain Men of Fur Trade fame.
Register Cliff invited emigrants because broad river bottoms offered pleasing campsites and excellent pasture. Hardship and illness were inevitable to Trail travel; of 55,000 emigrants during a peak years, some 5,000 died enroute. Cliffside graves attest to the high mortality. This being their lot, travelers eagerly sought and singularly valued recuperative layovers. Here, rest offered the opportunity to register.
But not all who registered were worn and grieving emigrants. early inscriptions were by Mountain Men inured to wilderness life — many descendants of two centuries of French Fur Trade; One reads: 1829 This July 14. Does it denote an observance? If the American Independence Day was celebrated in 1825 at Independence Rock could the French trappers have noted Bastille Day at Register Cliff in 1829?