VIDEO: Nebraska’s Western Vistas

by Lithium Technologies ‎08-12-2015 04:46 PM - edited ‎08-31-2015 03:05 PM (2,051 Views)

Eastern Nebraska, where Omaha and Lincoln reign, bustles with big-city spirit. But more than 400 miles to the west, the state’s landscape takes on a dramatically different personality, with pine-studded buttes, rolling sandhills and plenty of wide-open spaces. Here are four places to soak in the stunning scenery of Nebraska’s panhandle.


Windlass Hill

Pioneers approaching Nebraska’s North Platte River Valley along the Oregon Trail encountered this 300-foot-long slope—and were faced with the challenge of navigating the wagons down at a 25-degree angle. Today, the hill, near the town of Lewellen, is part of Ash Hollow State Historic Park. A steep climb along the trail to the top rewards hikers with panoramic views of the Sandhills and remnants of wagon ruts that are more than 150 years old.



While you’re there: About a half-hour drive away, Ogallala beckons with small-town charm and cowboy lore. Step back in time on Boot Hill, where the Trail Boss (a bronze statue of horse and rider) stands sentinel over the graves of cowboys and other residents who helped make Ogallala a booming cow town in the 1870s and 1880s. Another gem: the Petrified Wood Gallery showcases the finds and creations of brothers Harvey and Howard Kenfield. Polished pieces of petrified wood from around the world sparkle with color alongside miniature houses and other structures, intricately built using thin strips of the rock-hard substance.


Scotts Bluff National Monument

Soaring 800 feet above the North Platte River Valley, Scotts Bluff marked the end of the plains and the entrance to more mountainous lands for wagons heading west along the Oregon Trail. Today, cars can take the 1.6-mile Summit Road to the top, where two short, paved trails lead to overlooks offering incredible views. From the South Overlook, see the route pioneers took through Mitchell Pass, as well as four of Scotts Bluff’s five rock formations.



While you’re there: Just outside the entrance to Scotts Bluff National Monument in Gering, the new Legacy of the Plains Museum brings Nebraska’s pioneer days to life. See antique tractors and other equipment, tour the 80-acre working farm and more. Future plans for the museum include a furnished sod house, an early log home and a 1930s farmstead, as well as a path along the Oregon Trail to the Scotts Bluff visitor center. For an overnight stay, check into AAA Three Diamond-rated Barn Anew Bed and Breakfast (  ) in Scottsbluff, a renovated 100-year-old barn where four cozy rooms await guests.



Toadstool Geologic Park

About a 19-mile drive northwest of Crawford (most of it along dirt roads), this prehistoric park rises from the badlands. Giant mounds of clay and volcanic ash, formed over millions of years, create an otherworldly landscape. Along the one-mile loop trail, look for fallen “toadstool” formations—large sandstone slabs once perched on eroding clay pedestals—along with fossils and bone fragments of animals that migrated through the area 30 million years ago.



While you’re there: A second trail at Toadstool Geologic Park leads hikers on a three-mile trek to the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center. There, archaeologists continue to investigate the discovery of the bones of up to 600 bison. Uncovered in 1954, the bonebed is about the size of a football field, making it the largest of its kind in the world. Researchers are still exploring the mystery of how these ancient bison died more than 10,000 years ago and what role humans might have played. The center is open Memorial Day through Labor Day and offers guided tours, stone tool-making demonstrations and more.



Fort Robinson State Park

This former Army fort near Crawford—active from 1874 until 1948—was the site of the 1879 Cheyenne Outbreak and the death of Sioux chief Crazy Horse. It also served as a cavalry remount station, war dog training center and German POW camp. Today, guests can stay in the lodge and cabins that once housed enlisted men, go camping and horseback riding, and more. But one of the biggest draws is the scenery. Nebraska’s Pine Ridge—towering sandstone buttes dotted with pine trees—dominates the horizon.



While you’re there: About a half-hour east of Fort Robinson, in Chadron, the Museum of the Fur Trade chronicles one of America’s earliest industries with an impressive collection of artifacts. See goods that were traded to Native Americans in the 1840s, from whiskey and coffee to beads and blankets. The museum also is home to the country’s largest collection of guns made for the Indian trade. Behind the museum is a reproduction of an 1837 trading post (the original collapsed around 1880), where James Bordeaux traded for the American Fur Company. The reconstruction was done in such detail that the building earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.


Visit your local AAA Travel Consultant to start planning a trip.


Video credit/source:Julie Burnham

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