|Photo by Steve & Bobbi Olson|
Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock are ruggedly beautiful and prominent in the history and legends of the area. Courthouse Rock rises 340 feet above the valley floor and got its name because of its blocky shape. Oregon Trail migrants thought it looked like a courthouse; the smaller rock formation nearby was therefore the jail. They are the easternmost outliers of the Wildcat Hills.
The story is told of a band of Skidi Pawnees who fled their enemies, the Sioux, by climbing Courthouse Rock. With cliffs on three sides and only one difficult path to the top, the Pawnee were trapped. The Sioux camped at the base of the rock and waited for their enemies to give up from thirst and hunger. But late at night, the Pawnees made a long rope from their pony lariats, quietly descended a cliff one by one and escaped.
The area is five miles south of Bridgeport on Highway 88. You won’t need to ask directions. The rocks are visible for miles. The area is open year-round and charges no admission. Courthouse and Jail Rock Golf Club, a nine-hole public course, is nearby.
Just off Highways 26 and 92 on the west edge of town, Bridgeport State Recreation Area offers primitive camping, hiking, fishing, swimming and waterskiing. It is open year-round. A state park entry permit is required.
As its name indicates, the town of Bridgeport started with a bridge. Camp Clarke was the site of an early bridge across the North Platte River, built to serve gold rush travelers going to and from the Black Hills. When the railroad came through, the original site was abandoned in favor of a new bridge closer to the railroad. The new site became known as Bridgeport.
The story of Camp Clarke and history of the area are displayed at the Pioneer Trails Museum at the north end of Main Street. It is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day. Admission is free. (308) 262-0108.
Travelers are welcome to use the facilities, including exercise room and shower, at Prairie Winds Community Center on North Main Street.
For more information, contact the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce at (308) 262-1825 or visit www.bridgeportneb.com.