Detour Nebraska: Historic Destinations & Natural Wonders by Gretchen Garrison of Lincoln is a comprehensive guide to historic and unique destinations across Nebraska. (Read more about Gretchen here). It is organized by seven geographic regions: Metro Region, Pioneer Region, Lewis and Clark Region, Sandhills Region, Frontier Trails, Prairie Lakes and Panhandle. Gretchen shared her top recommendations for must-see detours in Nebraska in 2018 for each region. And, the great part about these destinations is that they won’t break the budget.
John Philip Falter Museum in Falls City. John Philip Falter was a Falls City native and become the second most prolific “Saturday Evening Post” cover artist. Falls City residents opened the Museum to honor Falter and his connection to Nebraska. Falter covers are changed seasonally at the museum, which is open by appointment only.
Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City. This museum opened in 2007 and features art with an agricultural theme. “Everything in the museum connects to land and fields,” Gretchen said. “This exclusively agrarian art theme is rare.” Art from David City native Dale Nichols that features barns and farm life scenes is prominently displayed in the cozy museum along with art from creators around the country.
Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari
This Nebraska-style safari allows visitors to see animals such as elk, eagle, deer, buffalo and water birds in their natural habitat. Kids can also feed goats in the farmyard area and take a short hike to see bears and wolves. The safari is open from April to October from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily and is located off Nebraska I-80, Exit 426 near Ashland.
Lewis & Clark Region
Historical Displays at Pawnee Park in Park in Columbus. The Quincentenary Bell Tower and the Andrew J. Higgins memorial, which includes a reproduction of the famous boats he designed for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. The ten church bells on the bell tower are former area church bells and ring out every 15 minutes. Higgins was born in Columbus but had a passion for designing ships and later moved to New Orleans to start Higgins Industries, which focused on building ships and naval combat motorboats. Sands from WWII invasions and the Korean and Vietnam wars are embedded in concrete at the Higgins memorial.
“I love these memorials because they are a hands-on way for children to be involved in history,” Gretchen said.
Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine. This former chalk mine near Scotia allows visitors to explore a rare landform. It is one of only two underground diatomite mines found in the United States and is the only site open to the public, Gretchen shares in her book. She said one of her favorite stories in the book is how people would shine their car headlights into the cave to enjoy evening dances there during the Great Depression. The mine is open seven days a week Memorial Day through Labor Day and by appointment October through May.
Hastings Museum: Gretchen said she and her family could spend hours at the Hastings Museum as it includes American historical displays, cars, a Kool-Aid exhibit to honor founder Edwin Perkins of Hastings, a planetarium and an agricultural exhibit that honors Nebraska farmers in a special way. She said that museum founder Albert Brookings was so passionate about the museum that he asked to be buried there when he died, and he was (in a crypt in the basement) Brookings was passionate about amassing artifacts, and the Hastings Chamber of Commerce helped him make his collections available to the public when they opened the museum in 1927.
Petrified Wood Gallery in Ogallala. (link to her blog here) “This ended up being one of my favorite experiences on my 1,700-mile trip.” Gretchen said. She spent more than an hour touring the collection of art created from petrified wood by twin brothers Howard and Harvey Kenfield. “Getting to see the art through the eyes of the creators was amazing,” Gretchen wrote in the book.
Gretchen shares photos and videos from her visit to the Petrified Wood Gallery in a recent blog post.
Toadstool Geologic Park near Crawford. “It’s basically like exploring the moon,” Gretchen said of the unique rock formations in western Nebraska. She called the park a “hiker’s paradise” as visitors can climb the slaps of sandstone that resemble giant mushrooms.
“Clay deposits, left behind by flooding, turned into sand over time, and volcanic ash drifted over from neighboring states,” Gretchen explains in the book. “These materials combined to become the unique landscapes still seen today.”
The park, which is open yyear-round is part of the Oglala National Grassland is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service.
Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron: This museum, which is three miles east of Chadron, is a history lover’s paradise. It preserves the history of the North American fur trade, which Gretchen explains was the first influential industry in Nebraska. The museum stands on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post, which was established for the American Fur Company in 1837. The museum features an extensive collection of guns, authentic weavings and items from the Lewis and Clark expedition. An heirloom Indian garden is showcased on the museum grounds as well as a reconstructed sod building that is a replica of Bordeaux’s 1837 trading post.
Legacy of the Plains in Gering: The Legacy of the Plains Museum is located on the Oregon Trail and features a collection of pioneer and early community artifacts and farm equipment plus an 80-acre working farm with longhorn cattle and beautiful views of Scotts Bluff National monument. Gretchen explains in her book that this museum is the consolidation of two museums, the former Farm and Ranch Museum and the North Platte Valley Historical Museum. The two combined in 2013 to form the Legacy of the Plains.
Gretchen wrote a 31-Day Challenge about places she loves to visit in Nebraska on “Odyssey Through Nebraska” in October. Be sure to check out her blog to find out more.
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