Welcome to Guernsey State Park (GSP). GSP is both a reservoir and recreation area located outside the small town of Guernsey near the eastern Wyoming border. It began in 1927 as a reservoir when the Federal Bureau of Reclamation built a dam on the North Platte River to provide the area with hydroelectric power, flood protection and irrigation water to farms. Later, during the 1930s, the Bureau of Federal Reclamation, the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) would combine their knowledge and resources to develop the reservoir into a multi-use recreation area as well. A recreation area which we are now using as our jumping off point to state and national historical sites, landmarks and monuments.
We arrived and setup Beau at this lovely location on Wednesday, June 13th. After getting settled in we quickly discovered that GSP is a communication Dead Zone. No cell, no internet. We could, sporadically receive and send text messages but there was no rhyme or reason to when we might be blessed with service. Instead we found we had to drive 10 miles out of town to get a signal. Well that just gives us more time to relax and enjoy the area.
Guernsey SP encompasses 8,602 acres. We drove around to familiarize ourselves with the park and what it has to offer. Turns out work done by the CCC in constructing the roads, buildings and recreational features of GSP became the model on which many national recreational areas were built or upgraded including Lake Mead, Lake Powell and Yellowstone National Park.
We visited several beautifully crafted, rustic stone and timber structures. The Castle has a huge stone fireplace, alcoves with picnic tables, and an observation deck overlooking a canyon. Brimmer Point is a winding stone stairway to an observation area overlooking mountains (Well, after living in Colorado for 24 years the mountains of this area are more like large hills to us 😉) and the spillway to the east. Finally, we visited the GSP Visitor Center and Museum. Here we read about the history of the park and the surrounding area. And what history the surrounding area holds! Within a half hour’s drive are so many wonderful historical sites.
Guernsey, Wyoming may be a small town but it is one of the places where the emigrants from the California Trail (1841-1868), Oregon Trail (1841-1868), and the Mormon Trail (1846-1868) all converged and passed nearby on the trek westward. The California Trail was spawned by the gold rush. The Oregon Trail for those who wanted to start anew or seek a better life away from everything and everyone back East. Religious freedom was the quest for those on the Mormon Trail. What bought these three very different groups of trail travelers together? A rock wall, two miles outside of Guernsey, made of soft limestone. On this large formation, one mile in length, people from the trails carved their names, dates and perhaps the town from which they began their journey into the pliable rock. It became known as Register Cliff. Carvings can be found dating back to the early 1840s and 1850s. We walked around looking at the carvings but were a bit put-off that so many people from the 20th Century had decided to add their “marks” to the cliff. Another historic site falling victim to the carelessness and vandalism of the present.
In addition, we visited the Oregon Trail Ruts, only a half mile southeast of Guernsey. Here we saw ruts worn 5 feet deep into the limestone rock. Wow! In the end, emigration on these three trails dwindled and finally stopped when the transcontinental railway was completed in 1869.
The area is also known for The Pony Express which passed through Guernsey delivering mail and news between the east, out of St. Joseph, Missouri and the west, from San Francisco, California. Several markers and placards can be found on roads outside of town commemorating what was then seen as a vital service. The Pony Express operated between April 1860 and November 1861 when the last mail was delivered and service stopped due to the transcontinental telegraph lines that were completed coast-to-coast in October 1861.
And so it was for how we spent the last few days. There is so much more to write about. Before carving their names on Register Cliff, the emigrants first stopped at a place that was essential to their journey westward. It was a place that protected them, provided a brief respite and travelers could buy needed supplies and have repairs made to their equipment. That place was Fort Laramie. We’ll be writing about the Fort Laramie National Historic Site in our next posting.