This rugged stretch of trail caused the emigrants no limits of grief. Today, the ridge can be seen by staying on the graveled BLM Hudson-Atlantic City Road or the adventurous can cross it in 4WD vehicles. The emigrants ascended this barren rocky ridge after leaving the Sweetwater Valley en route to South Pass. Along Rocky Ridge, the trail ascends about 700 feet in two miles through a rugged boulder strewn path.
On the eastern edge of Rocky Ridge sits a monument to the misery endured at this site by the Willie’s Handcart Company. James G. Willie organized a Mormon handcart company in 1856 and set out from Council Bluffs at approximately the same time as the Martin Handcart Company. The same winter storm that trapped the Martin Company near Red Buttes also struck the Willie Company at this point just east of Rocky Ridge. With no food, the Willie Company watched as the snow began to fall and the temperatures plummeted. That night, thirteen people froze to death. Before they could move on, another eight succumbed to the elements.
The full stretch of
trail known today as Rocky Ridge runs about 12 miles, across two high
ridge shelfs, crossing Strawberry Creek and passing the old ghost town
of Lewiston. The rock cuts left by wagon wheels are among the most dramatic
trail remnants remaining on the westward emigrant trails.
National Park Service
Comprehensive Management Plan
J. Goldsborough Bruff, 31 Jul 1849: "…ascended the high hill, moved over it, and ascended another, very stony and rough, requiring care of the teamsters: -- then over some hard level road, and minor stony ridges."