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Courthouse & Jail Rocks

While you are stopped, learn about: Pioneer Trails Museum

Bridgeport, Nebraska; Morrill County

Courthouse and Jail Rocks are massive monoliths made of Brule clay and Gering sandstone. Over time, wind and water erosion slowly sculpted the rocks into their current courthouse or castle shapes. The rocks became well-known milestones for settlers traveling northwest from Ash Hollow and were popular subjects in diary entries and sketches.

The rocks are well known for their many layers made mostly out of clay and silt that eroded from mountains to the west. At the foot of Courthouse Rock, you stand on sediments laid down 35 million years ago. The top layers at the valley rim are about 10 million years younger. The river carved a path down through these layers. In time it became a broad valley.

How did they get their names? Travelers along the Oregon-California-Mormon trails called the main butte “the Court House” or sometimes “the Solitary Tower,” “the Church,” “the Capitol,” or “the Castle.” The smaller rock was “the Jail” or “Jail House.” Today the rocks are open to the public.








While you are stopped, learn about: Pioneer Trails Museum

Located in the heart of what used to be the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and Pony Express Routes the Bridgeport Pioneer Trails Museum offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the early settler history and view the museum’s collection of related objects. It is the stop for Courthouse and Jail rock visitors in the Summer.

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