California has 9 National Parks; Nebraska has 0. This does not mean that Nebraska should be overlooked as a travel destination. According to NPS.gov Nebraska has 3 National Monuments. Ruth and I have been to 2 of them, and both were worthy of attention–Scotts Bluff and Homestead. The 3rd is Agate Fossil Beds near the town of Harrison. What Nebraska has in abundance and reflecting its history is National Trails. Five of them cross this state where migratory cranes are flying near the center.
Towering 800 feet near the North Platte River that wagons and pioneers were following and the current town of North Platte, Scotts Bluff makes a point. That point will eventually crumble and disappear. For now it is an instantly recognizable landmark in the southwestern part of the state that was important to Native Americans also. Its visitor center is worth checking out, and its staff is full of local lore about the area. Homestead National Monument is on the other end of the state and is devoted to the Homestead Act of 1862 that brought many settlers to Nebraska. It’s near the town of Beatrice (pronounced BE at’ ris by the natives). The Homestead Act was important legislation passed during the Civil War that had nothing to do with war but had a lot to do with government aid, like the stimulus packages of today. It granted adult citizens who had not borne arms against The Government 160 acres of free surveyed land. All qualifiers had to do was live on these acres and improve them usually by cultivating crops. Most chose to accept this gift and settle in The West near railroad tracks. This is a far more interesting subject for a National Monument than it sounds, and visitors will learn a lot about living in this state.
The 5 scenic trails crossing Nebraska are about Mormons, people on their way to Oregon or California, Lewis and Clark, and The Pony Express. Pony Express riders carrying mail for 10 days to the western states on the Pacific Ocean passed through 8 states on their way to California, but thanks to the telegraph and its technology boost this system of mail delivery only lasted for 18 months. The pioneer trail that passed by Scotts Bluff went through 9 states on its way to California. The Mormon trail began in Nauvoo, Illinois, and ended in the Salt Lake Valley passing through only 4 states after crossing the Mississippi River. Lewis and Clark’s exploring involved 16 states including Nebraska.
Two of the other Nebraska National Park Service facilities are about rivers. The Missouri that Lewis and Clark floated west on was very different from the tamed river we see today. The other Nebraska river that sounds more interesting now than The Missouri is the Niobrara. Those floating it in the northwestern part of this state pass 200 waterfalls in 76 miles and 300 bluffs. The Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center is in Valentine.
My 4 favorite attractions in Nebraska are its state capitol in Lincoln that many consider the most beautiful one in this nation. I also favor the state history museum in Lincoln and Scotts Bluff. However, my favorite but seasonal attraction is near Grand Island and managed by the Crane Trust. I wrote about it under the title “The Cranes Are Flying in Nebraska”. My favorite town is Broken Bow that I have written about in 2 blogs named “Broken Bow Has the Arrow” and “Broken Bow: Best in State”.