Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock are prominent in pioneer history and ancient legends. Courthouse Rock got its name because of its blocky shape. Oregon Trail migrants thought it looked like a courthouse; the smaller formation nearby was therefore the jail. They are the easternmost rocky outliers of Nebraska’s Wildcat Hills.
The story is told of a band of Skidi Pawnee who fled their Sioux enemies by climbing Courthouse Rock. With cliffs on three sides and only one path to the top, the Pawnee seemed 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 and escaped down a cliff one by one.
The area is five miles south of Bridgeport on Highway 88. The rocks are visible from many miles away. 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 and swimming. 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. When the railroad arrived, the original site was abandoned and the new site became Bridgeport.
The history of Camp Clarke and the area are displayed at the Pioneer Trails Museum. It is open Memorial Day to Labor Day. (308) 262-1117. Travelers are welcome to use the exercise room and shower at Prairie Winds Community Center on North Main Street.
For more information, contact the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce. (308) 262-1825.