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Devils Gate By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum

October 25, 2013
Northern-Sun Print
About 5.8 miles southwest of Independence Rock (Wyoming), or a day’s travel by wagon train, was yet another trail landmark for the Oregon Trail – Devil’s Gate. Here the Sweetwater River has carved a narrow cleft in the rocks, about 370 feet deep and 1500 feet long. Its 30 feet wide at the base, but nearly 300 feet at its top. Wagons were forced around the cleft, but emigrants often stopped to hike around and carve their names. Often they would see big horn sheep climbing the hills. There were several murders in the Devils’ Gate region, leading some emigrants to believe the area was a bedeviled site. The Shoshone and Arapahoe Indians attributed Devil’s Gate to the actions of an evil beast with enormous tusks that once roamed the area, preventing the Indians from hunting and camping in the region. Folklore was that the Indians became disgusted and decided to kill the beast. From the passes and ravines the warriors shot the beast with a multitude of arrows. The beast, enraged, tore a hole in the mountains with his large tusks and escaped. Today emigrant trail ruts are still visible in the area. The Sweetwater Valley contained three distinctive granite landmarks: Independence Rock; Devils Gate, and Split Rock. The last, Split Rock, had guided travelers for decades before the emigrants arrived. The distinctive “gun sight” notch in the Rattlesnake Range was visible to the emigrants for the better part of two days. Rising 1000 feet above the prairie, Split Rock aimed the emigrants directly at South Past, still more than 75 miles away. The regions gentle landscape offered the emigrants a short but much needed respite on their long journey. A short distance west of Split Rock was the Pony Express station, stage station and telegraph station in the early 1860’s. In 1862 50 soldiers from the 6th Ohio Regiment were encamped there to protect the emigrants. Legend is that the soldiers built a tunnel between the post and the river so that they could get water without being seen by the Indians.


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