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Travel Logs August 2017

Compulsive Traveler

Step into the Past in Western Nebraska

By Sandra Scott

The Fur Trade Museum depicts the time “...when skins were money.” Fur trading is America’s oldest business and made John Jacob Astor America’s first millionaire.

In 1865, when Horace Greeley wrote in the New York Tribune “Go West, young man, and grow with the country,” people were already moving west – by the thousands. Before 1.6 million homesteaders moved west, there were over 400,000 who followed the 2,170-mile route from Missouri to Oregon or California braving incredible hardships. Most walked and – keep in mind that they had to get to Missouri first.

  1. Scotts Bluff: Pioneers on the Oregon Trail could see Chimney Rock for several days and knew they were near the next major landmark, Scotts Bluff, and after that came the mountains. Scotts Bluff Visitor Center has covered wagons with pioneer-clad docents to tell more tales of the journey.

  2. The Fur Trade Museum: The museum depicts the time “...when skins were money.” Fur trading is America’s oldest business and made John Jacob Astor America’s first millionaire. Outdoor displays included a trading post and one display showing how 10 tanned buffalo hides were compressed into 2 by 3-foot bales for easier shipping.

  3. Fort Robinson: As more people settled in the area soldiers were sent to provide security. Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford was an active military post from 1874 to 1948. Many of the buildings survived and now are places to stay and camp. Visitors can visit the museum, take a carriage or horse ride, kayak, go tubing, fish, swim, golf, see a local production of a popular Broadway show, and more.

  4. Ogallala: All roads west went through Ogallala, the cowboy capital, and described by a trail driver as the “Gomorrah of the cattle trail.” On Front Street there is a nightly shootout and a revue at the Crystal Palace, plus a cowboy museum. Nearby is Lake McConaughy, a lake with white sand beaches and plenty to do.

  5. Really old: Twenty million years ago animals that are now extinct died near shallow water holes and today their skeletons can be seen at the Agate Fossil Bed where there is a visitor center and an interpretive trail. More recent skeletons can be seen at Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center.

  6. Shopping: All the parks have an array of nature- and history-related books and other items for sale. For something unique, visit the Petrified Wood Gallery in Ogallala. Sidney is the home of Cabela’s, where they have all your sporting needs.

  7. Eats: You can’t leave Nebraska without trying Runza, a yeast-dough pocket bread filled with beef, cabbage, onions and seasonings. Try Buffalo burgers, anything grilled, and Rocky Mountain oysters, don’t ask what they are, just eat and enjoy. Kool-Aid was developed in Nebraska by Edwin Perkins who developed a powder to add to water, that became a world-wide seller.

  8. Accommodations: There are camping grounds and traditional motels but try some of the one-of-a-kind places such as Barn Anew in Scotts Bluff and/or one of the unique ranch stays at nebraskahighcountry.com. Fort Robinson also has some interesting accommodations.

  9. Read ahead: Mari Sandoz wrote several books about life on the High Plains. Learn more about her at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State College. Across the Plains in 1844 by Catherine Sagar is the true story of how her 14-year-old brother managed to get his six siblings, one an infant and one with a broken leg, to Oregon.

  10. If you go: For more information go to westnebraska.com or call 1-866-684-4066. Get a Nebraska Passport at nebraskapassport.com for great places to see and a chance to win a prize. Tech-savvy travelers will find that many places have guided-tour apps.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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