Posted by: Kirsten | Thursday, 5 June 2008

Thank Goodness for Nebraska State Parks!

The National Parks — I love ’em!  But sometimes you just can’t make it back to civilization for a decent night’s sleep when travelling to see the National Monuments, Historic Sites, and Battlefields.  Most of them don’t have overnight accommodations, which is fine — we don’t want a zillion people overrunning Antietam, Gettysburg, or Saratoga expecting to camp out on the battlefield somewhere.  That’s often where the National Forests, National Recreation Areas, or sometimes State Parks come in handy.

On our recent trip to Nebraska, we made of use of no fewer than four state-run areas:

  • Ash Hollow State Historical Park
  • Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area
  • Chimney Rock National Historic Site
  • Fort Robinson State Park

We stayed our first night in some cabins at Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area.  It put us in a great spot to begin our journey along the Oregon Trail, near Ash Hollow State Historical Park where several wagon ruts mark the beginning of a more difficult journey for those following the Oregon Trail.  Ash Hollow was a place where they needed to get their wagons DOWN the hill closer to the level of the North Platte River, and the photo is very telling of the difficulties they must have had while hitching their animals to the REAR of the wagon in an attempt to control its descent into the valley.

Following the Oregon Trail west we came to arguably the most famous landmark along the trail.  After weeks of traversing the flat expanse of the great prairie across Kansas and Nebraska, Chimney Rock was an amazing sight to behold for 19th Century travellers, and a welcome diversion from the monotony.

After a visit to Scotts Bluff Nat’l Monument it was off to Fort Robinson State Park where just about any family could spend an entire week and not be bored for a moment.  Great activities, great variety, loads of history, and great prices on everything from food to horseback riding to room rates to float trips.  We both did the 90-minute Soldier Creek guided horseback ride for less than $35 — total!  Dinners came in at around $10 — total!  Our room with a comfy bed, a desk for writing, and private bath was only $43 per night.  Incredible values all around — it’s just a bit out of the way to get there, but worth every penny and worth the wait!

So the next time you’re planning that National Parks road trip, don’t forget to include the state parks… not only as a potential place to bunk for the night, but also as one of your destinations for fun and learning.

Parke Diem!
— Jon



  1. In Nebraska, check out Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and Gavins Point Dam (a joint Core of Engineers and National Park Site). Both have Junior Ranger programs.

  2. If you like the Forts, be sure to check out Fort Hartsuff near Elyria NE, between Burwell and Ord.

    Its America’s only fully restored and operational Indian Wars fort.

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