Known as the Register of the Desert with over 5,000 names and messages that are all part of the pioneering history.
Independence Rock State Historic Site is located on the south side of Route 220 at the Independence Rock Rest Area in Natrona County, Wyoming. The granite rock is about 130 feet high, 1,900 feet long, and 850 feet wide. This rock is one of the most noted landmarks along the emigrant trails. There is a legend that states the importance of traveling emigrants reaching Independence Rock by July 4th. However, many emigrants arrived at the rock throughout the traveling season. From a distance, the granite rock looks like a huge whale. The area was a very popular camping site and while staying at the site, many emigrants carved their names into the granite wall while others painted their names with wagon grease, tar, or a combination of buffalo grease and glue. Today, many of the names have flaked off or have become hidden by lichens. Thousands of the names are still visible and are worth viewing. There are names of travelers, traders, trappers, and emigrants on the rock from the ground up many feet. A Jesuit missionary named Pierre Jean De Smet gave it the name, "Great Register of the Desert." One of the first carved names is that of M. K. Hugh in 1824. The rock became a bulletin board for the Oregon Trail travelers. The site was made a national historic landmark in 1961 and is managed by the state of Wyoming.
Today, there is no camping allowed at the site but there is a path that goes around the base of the rock with some exhibits that tell the story of the trail. There are visible trail ruts from the wagons that passed through. Hiking on the rock is allowed, however, visitors are cautioned to preserve the heritage of the site for future generations - it is unlawful to deface or defile the National and Historical Monument in any way. The history regarding Independence Rock is very interesting, and it is amazing to climb the rock and think about the people that traveled through the area and what their lives might have been like.