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Historic Trails

Nebraska has long been known for its historic trails, which carried early explorers, pioneers and gold seekers into the western frontier. The Lewis and Clark, Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express National Historic Trails all traverse Nebraska. Trail ruts, stage stations, and road ranches still stand throughout Nebraska as reminders of the sacrifices, struggles and triumphs of early American travelers and settlers.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission operates several areas with storied connections to the historic trails of Nebraska.

Rock Creek Station State Historical Park offers visitors a glance at deep ruts carved by the many wagons that traveled the Oregon, California and Pony Express Trails. Archaeological excavations located the site of two road ranches dating to 1858-1860 time period. Buildings and corrals have been reconstructed on the actual site of both the East and West ranches. An interpretive center, overlooking 350 acres of prairie hilltops, timbered creek bottoms and rugged ravines, will help visitors journey back to the 1800’s.

Fort Kearny State Historical Park, built to protect Overland Trail travelers, served as a stage station, home station for the Pony Express, outfitting depot and home of the Pawnee Scouts. Archaeological exploration has identified building sites and features that served travelers on their journey in the settlement of the American West. The stockade, parade grounds and blacksmith shop have been rebuilt. History is revealed in the interpretive center, carpenter-blacksmith shop and stockade.

Ash Hollow State Historical Park is home to a sweet spring that made it a stop on the Overland Trail. A walkway provides access to the crest of Windlass Hill, where visitors can view ruts etched by the thousands of wagons on their west-bound journey. The history and archaeology of the area is interpreted at the visitor center, Ash Hollow Cave, exhibits and structures.

A number of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission areas were significant in the journey of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. Indian Cave State Park, Ponca State Park, Niobrara State Park, Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Brownville State Recreation Area, Pelican Point State Recreation Area, Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area and Two Rivers State Recreation Area played host to the expedition and/or were cited in their journals. A variety of interpretive material and programming exists at each location. Please contact park staff at individual areas to determine if displays, demonstrations or centers are available.

The National Park Service is charged with inventory and management of
National Historic Trails.

 

Additional Links:

Nebraska State Historical Society

Middle Missouri River Lewis and Clark Network

The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition


National Park Service Sites:


Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Pony Express National Historic Trail

Oregon National Historic Trail

California National Historic Trail

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

 

 

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