Last updated: June 12, 2022
Stop 11: Scotts Spring
We hope that you enjoyed your walk through geolgic history here at Scotts Bluff National Monument. In a way, you have walked back in time. Starting at the Monroe Creek-Harrison Formations that were depositied up to around 25 million years ago, you then walked down into the older Gering Formation which is up to 28 million years old. Finally you made your way down into the Whitney Member, which is roughly 30 million years old. While these ages make geology feel like something that shaped the monument in the past, remember that these geologic changes are still happening today. For that reason, we hope you will return to the Monument in the future to see how geologic processes have changed this special place.
Geology and Scotts Spring
A brief description of the geologic forces that shaped the landscape at Scotts Bluff National Monument.
The creation of this land is millions of years in the making. An ancient inland sea, referred to as the Cretaceous Sea, once covered this region and began to recede about 65 million years ago. At the same time as the ancient sea’s recession major uplifting occurred creating the modern Rocky Mountains. This uplifting would continue sporadically until recent geologic time. The Rocky Mountains would supply much of the materials needed to create the Great Plains.
- Date created:
- 2022-06-12 00:00:00.0
Deposits of sand and mud from wind and streams created the layers of sandstone and siltstone you see at the base of the bluffs. Wind deposits of volcanic ash are seen represented in layers further up the bluff in contrasting colors. Supersaturated groundwater rich in lime formed the limestone layers near the top of the bluff; these limestone deposits are often referred to as pipey concretions and act as a hard cap rock for the softer sand and siltstone below it. We will have a close look at these various layers as we move along the trail.
Before we move on take a look at the groundwater spring next to the trail, did you notice there is a lot more vegetation here than across the prairie? Scotts Spring is the only natural spring within the Monument and provides much coveted water to animals and plant life alike.
This spring represents a connection to the ancient past through water related geologic deposition and erosion. It also represents a connection with the not so distant past of the emigrant traveler. The spring was first recorded in pioneer diaries as a place to find clear drinking water as compared to the often muddy water of the North Platte River. Many families would use the Scotts Bluff area as an overnight location and were very thankful for clear-clean drinking water.
As you move towards stop number four you’ll notice that you are beginning to climb the fanned base of the bluff. Take your time and watch as the sandstone and siltstone base begins to change slightly as you climb in elevation.