Guernsey Ruts National Historic Landmark

Over the course of time, pioneer wagon trails are lost to history because of erosion, farming, urban sprawl and other factors. However, when ruts were created by countless wagon wheels, people, and draft animals passing over rock, the site of the actual trail may be preserved.

Wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming
Wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming. Photo by Kenneth Mays.

One of the most spectacular examples of this is found at the site of the wagon ruts near the little town of Guernsey in eastern Wyoming. There are few other such sites to parallel this one either on the Oregon Trail or, perhaps, in all the world. Worn in the soft sandstone, these ruts are waist to shoulder deep in some places.

Wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming
Wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming. Photo by Kenneth Mays.

There are several trails and routes that separate and crisscross in the region of the Guernsey site. It is known that Brigham Young followed one while passing through and the Martin Handcart Company followed another. Those following the Oregon Trail shared the same route at this point as did trappers and those hauling freight or seeking gold in California. The heaviest usage of the trail here came between the years of 1841 to 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point, Utah.

Another segment of wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming
Another segment of wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming. Photo by Kenneth Mays.

This site is located near the banks of the North Platte River about a half mile from the town of Guernsey. Because the trail had to move away from the river at this point, it followed a ridge of soft sandstone on which virtually all travelers crossed at the same place, thus wearing away the rock to the point seen today. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. It is very near another landmark of the overland trail known as Register Cliff.

Map & Directions

Directions from LaMar Berrett: “From U.S. 26 in the center of Guernsey, drive south on the main road .75 mile, turn right (west) and go .5 mile, and then go south into the parking lot.”

Ownership Status

Guernsey Ruts, or Deep Rut Hill is part of the Oregon National Historic Trail. As such, it is owned and maintained by the National Park Service. The public is welcome at all hours seven days a week. It is assumed that it would be light enough to view the various ruts. There is no charge to visit the site.

Photos

Sign interpreting the wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming
Sign interpreting the wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming. Photo by Kenneth Mays.
Wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming
Wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming. Photo by Kenneth Mays.

Articles & Resources

Sources and Readings

LaMar C. Berrett and A. Gary Anderson, in LaMar C. Berrett ed., Sacred Places: Wyoming and Utah, vol. 6, 24-25.