Scotts Bluff National Monument

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published July 2009

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In the mid-19th century, Scotts Bluff and South Bluff—rising 800 feet above the North Platte River in what is today northwestern Nebraska—served as two vital landmarks for travelers heading west through the American frontier. Today, Scotts Bluff National Monument captivates more than 111,000 visitors each year with its diverse cultural and natural resources, including the largest collection of original sketches, photographs, and paintings by William Henry Jackson, one of the preeminent chroniclers of the American West and westward migration, as well as unique geologic features and landscapes, a host of animal and plant species, and native mixed-grass prairie.

According to an assessment by NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks, the cultural and natural resources protected within Scotts Bluff National Monument are in “fair” condition, overall (cultural resources achieved a score of 67 out of 100; natural resources achieved a score of 70 out of 100). The monument faces challenges protecting what remains of the Oregon Trail “swale” (the deep roadbed that was created by pioneers’ wagons); a lack of funds to care for 1930s structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps; missing or outdated planning and management documents; an overall lack of staffing; and a growing maintenance backlog. Natural resource concerns include invasive non-native plants that have become entrenched within certain areas of the monument, reduced flows in the North Platte River that affect riparian areas, fire suppression that has resulted in alterations to the native vegetation, and fragmentation of the adjacent landscape.

Monument staff are doing all they can to protect Scotts Bluff’s natural and cultural treasures with the resources available, and they have accomplished some significant projects. With help from the Northern Great Plains Exotic Plant Management Team based at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, staff have virtually eliminated invasive non-native Russian olive trees and saltcedar from Scotts Bluff National Monument. In addition, the monument has a new long-range interpretive plan that addresses interpretation of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work at the monument during the 1930s, archaeological resources, and traditional use of the monument by associated American Indian groups.


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