Just south of Guernsey,
are the Guernsey Ruts. Also known as Deep Rut Hill, history left a
definite mark here, as thousands of wagons bound for the west on the
Oregon Trail carved deep ruts into the sandstone.
The Oregon Trail became one of the key migration routes that pioneers crossed
on their way to the vast west. Spanning over half the continent the trail
proceeded over 2,170 miles west through territories that would later
Oregon. The long journey through endless plains, rolling hills, and
mountain passes, began in Independence, Missouri and ended at the Columbia River in
In its more than 25 years of regular use,
the trail carried an estimated 300,000 emigrants to the vast west, a
trip that took about five months to complete. Today, visual remnants
of the old trail can still be seen across the west, but none that are
as distinct as those found near Guernsey.
Here, the trail was forced away from the
North Platte River and crossed a ridge of soft sandstone where gouges
as deep as five feet deep were carved into solid rock. These heavy
ruts resulted from years of wagon wear and from intentional cutting by
emigrants attempting to ease the steep passage up from the level river
bottom to the High Plains.
The site, declared a National Historic
Landmark in 1966, is part of Guernsey State Park.
ruts at Guernsey State Park, Wyoming,
Kathy Weiser, September, 2009.
This image available for photographic prints and downloads
Guernsey State Park is also home to
several beautiful examples of historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
architecture. These structures, made of stone, iron, and hand hewn
logs, were built during the 1930's as part of President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt’s efforts to alleviate skyrocketing unemployment
rates and preserve America’s natural resources. Guernsey was the first
cooperative venture between the Bureau of Reclamation, the National
Park Service, and the Civilian Conservation Corp to develop a public
recreation area. Based on the success of this agreement Guernsey
became a prototype for developing recreational facilities at Bureau of
Reclamation reservoirs. Here, the CCC proved that with sufficient
training and supervision the laborers were capable of constructing
high quality and enduring examples of architecture and here is where
some of the most important National Park Service park planners of the
Depression Era honed their trade.
The basis of Rustic architecture was
simplicity in design, use of native building materials, avoidance of
overly prefect construction lines, and a general feeling of having
been built by pioneer craftsmen. While these buildings may sometimes
appear crudely built, they are often excellent examples of design and
craftsmanship. The Sitting Bull picnic shelter is a superb example of
Rustic architecture, it is difficult to tell where the ground stops
and this building begins as it rises out of the rock landscape. The
Castle may be the most elaborate picnic shelter in the country.
The historic portions of the park have
been left unmodified since they were constructed in the 1930s. No where is
this more evident then at the park museum. The museum building and
displays are essentially intact to 1937. CCC projects also included hiking trails, roads,
bridges, and even a nine-hole golf course, which was abandoned in the
This would eventually lead to some of the most
massive and popular facilities in the National Park Service. For this and
several other reasons Guernsey State Park was designated a National
Historic Landmark, separately from the ruts, in 1997.
In addition to the historic district, the park
contains Guernsey Reservoir on the North Platte River and a museum that
includes exhibits about the Civilian Conservation Corps and the natural
and cultural history of the park. It also provides seven campgrounds and
an extensive network of trails.
The park is located just ˝ mile south of
the town of Guernsey, off Highway 26.
Just two miles southeast of the town of
Guernsey is another Oregon Trail historic site called
where hundreds of pioneers inscribed their names.