At a family reunion in 1987. six local Alliance, Nebraska, families built this monument of old automobiles to replicate the famous Stonehenge in England. Some other local folks considered their project an eyesore and wanted to tear it down. The Nebraska Department of Highways almost declared the place a "junkyard" and required that a large privacy fence be built around it.
But others saw the whimsical charm of the place; the cars were painted a uniform gray to add to the appeal, and now signs on the edge of town announce: "Alliance, Nebraska: Home of Carhenge." There is also now a parking lot, educational display board, and picnic tables at the site. A gift shop down the road sells Carhenge souvenirs. On a recent roadtrip through the West I stumbled upon this offbeat attraction and it was the highlight of my day.
Carhenge is located on Hwy. 87, two miles north of Alliance, on the high plains of Western Nebraska. There is no admission charge, but donations are encouraged.
Take time and stop along the Great Platte River Road. The river may not impress you, nor may the miles and hours of open prairie. It's the sheer magitude of the open plains that I find impressive. Along the route, you'll find waysides of civilization. They began with the first inhabitants and have continued through the centuries. Today, there are small towns and numerous historic and unique natural areas.
It's appropriate that the museum in Kearney has a giant buffalo statue out front. Inspite of our perceptions from the legends of the old west, the west was not just Texas, Wyoming, and Montana. Much of it really takes place in places like Nebraska. It was here the great buffalo herds were first seen.
Those with an interest in nostalgia will enjoy seeing the Rock County Oil Company in downtown Bassett, even though you can't buy oil or gas here any more. The Nebraska Lied Main Street Program began in 1994 to help revitalize downtown areas of small town Nebraska and Bassett was accepted into the program in 1996. The renovation of this old Phillips 66 Station was their first project. The brick building, painted white, was built in 1927 and is currently being considered for listing on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Bassett is the the county seat of Rock County in the sandhills of north-central Nebraska. The economy in this beautiful but sparsely populated part of the state is based primarily on cattle ranching.
YOU JUST NEVER KNOW what you will see out there.
Here we come across the Haven's Chapel Ice Cream Social and Softball games. This community event takes place each year (usually the 4th Friday of June) at the Haven's Chapel Church just a few miles north of Kearney, Nebraska.
The other picture in this set shows another country church, this one along highway 4 in southeastern Nebraska, a few miles west of Beatrice.
This was a key stop on the famous "Underground Railroad", which enabled thousands of slaves to escape the old Antebellum South. Locals provided runaway slaves with food and shelter, plus a few tips on how to to safety farther north. The place has a cabin, an underground hideout, and a restored 19th century village. The village has a store, school, a church, blacksmith shop, and other structures.
2012 4th Corso
Nebraska City Nebraska
By the time the pioneers reached this spot, they were tired, hungry, thirsty, and ready to stop and relax. Here was a pleasant spot for them to do just that. It's been inhabited since pre-historic times. The caves provided shelter and water was available.
After a short rest, it was time for the pioneers to move on. But Ash Hollow provided a brief, welcome respite on the hard journey west.
We "stumbled across" Lake McConaughy on our road trip through the Midwest and Rocky Mountains. We had been driving a long time and were on our way to Laramie, WY.
In Western Nebraska, I saw this huge lake on the map and since it was not far from the highway, and we had plenty of time left, I suggested we go there. I'm glad we did!
In the middle of this rather flat, monotonous landscape, this prairie lake showed up, immensely blue in the October light, and with beautiful white sand around it.
It almost looked surreal right in the prairies - the wind was making waves on the lake, and a few people were fishing. Had it been earlier during the year, I would have loved to swim there. I really didn't want to leave again. Maybe next time I'll spend more time there.
Here is a country road somewhere in south-central Nebraska on a hazy summer morning. I suggest purchasing a Delorme atlas of Nebraska before you try this kind of trip; a Delorme atlas will show you all the country roads and where they will lead you. A regular road atlas will not.
However, Nebraskans are a friendly people; if you get lost, just stop and ask someone.
THIS IS A SANCTUARY FOR MIGRATORY BIRDS. If you can possibly visit during the last half of March or the first week of April, you will be witness to the migration of a half-million Sandhill Cranes, but come and visit anytime. (best times for viewing the cranes is at sunset or sunrise)
At the Gibbon exit on Interstate 80, go south on paved road for two miles, then go west on gravel road for another two miles.
Click the photo for more pictures of the center.
This lonely spot is perhaps my favorite place in Nebraska. In the distance, where giant cornstalks now grow, the wagons once rolled on to Oregon. And on the northern horizon, a line of trees marks the Platte River. Just beyond that, traffic zooms by on the modern Oregon Trail, Interstate 80.
Susan and her husband Richard were headed for California, but in June of 1852 Susan perished here, probably from Asiatic Cholera. The tombstone says "legend has it" that she died from drinking water poisoned by the Indians. It was handy then to blame the Native Americans for your troubles, but Indians were not in the habit of poisoning water.
Leaving their six children in the care of an aunt, Richard returned to Missouri and had a proper tombstone made, then brought it back to this spot. Vandals later detroyed that stone, but it has been replaced.
For years the story ended here and Richard disappeared into the mists of history. But recently more information has surfaced. Now we know the correct family name is actually "Haile", with an "e". Richard apparently caught up with the slow-moving wagon train and went on to the Napa Valley of California. He farmed and engaged in lumbering, and he would be elected to the California state legislature three times. He remarried and had four more children. Richard Haile died in 1890 after a long and productive life. We do not know if he ever got back to visit the grave of his first wife.
Directions to the grave: On Interstate 80 in south-central Nebraska, take the Shelton Exit (# 291) and go south on the paved road for 5.3 miles. It zigs & zags east & south, but stay on the paved road for 5.3 miles. You will see The Susan Hail historical marker on the east side of the road; Immediately south of it is a gravel road called 70th St. Take it to the east for perhaps 1/4 to 1/2 mile; you will see the grave on a small hill on the north side of the road.
It would be nice if you left some flowers.
"A mile wide and an inch deep", the Platte River flows east, but it pointed the way west for thousands. Too shallow for boat traffic, but along its shores the great westward movement took place. On the south shore, the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express went by. On the north shore, the Mormons headed for Salt Lake City. Just a bit farther north, the Great Transcontinental Railroad was built, and later, the Lincoln Highway, now highway 30, became the first transcontinental highway in America. And today, Interstate 80 roars along where once the Mormon Trail existed.
The Interstate follows the River for many miles because it is the flattest and therefore cheapest route on which to build such a road. Because of this, many who travel across the state without getting off the interstate think there are no hills in Nebraska.
I was driving along Nebraska Highway 12, paralleling the Missouri River and just across the border from South Dakota, when I saw the billboard: "Welcome to Maskell, Home of the Smallest City Hall in the U.S." An arrow pointed three blocks off the highway, and it so happens that the town of Maskel is exactly three blocks long and two blocks wide. There is a Lutheran Church, a cluster of houses, and a population of 54 people.
I circled the town completely and found myself back out at the highway, but saw no City Hall. I went back and looked more carefully the second time around and found it. The small white shed-like building, 10x12 feet, was painted white. In front was a large barrel of petunias, a water fountain, and a sign which said "Wet Paint." I peered into the open front door and could clearly see that the grey floor paint inside had recently been applied. An electric fan stood in the doorway, no doubt to speed the drying of the paint. There was not a stick of furniture in the tiny building - but then it was being painted.
I walked all around City Hall, peered in both windows, and looked up and down the street. Not a single soul was in sight. I'll have to come back another time when the paint is dry. Why is it that I just love discovering places like this?
A strange curiousity, this work of art was created by Jim Reinders using old, worn-out cars. It's a take-off on Stonehenge. While not suited to everyone's taste, it is definitely a unique, one-of-a-kind exhibit. Some wanted to have it removed, but the "Friends of Carhenge" saved it. I'm glad they did, because there's not much else around there.
Check the website below for directions.
Chimney Rock National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument is another landmark on the Oregon Trail. The entire monument is a rock formation sticking above the surrounding grassland. For the settlers on the Oregon Trail, it was another sign that they had survived the Great Plains and were reaching the mountains.
The monument itself is just a parking area, a sign, and the rock. A small trail may have led into the grassland for fifty or a hundred feet, but it offered only a slightly better view than that from the parking lot or even from a passing car. If one is passing by on the way to another destination, it may be worth stopping to take a picture. There isn't enough to do there to make Chimney Rock a destination. Someday, I hope to put my picture of Chimney Rock on my site.
One of our favorite places in Nebrasaka is in the Northwest corner of the state. There you will find Fort Robinson State Park. Fort Robinson used to be a military outpost. Today the buildings have been restored; you can tour them, take a ride across country in a stage coach, or view a local herd of buffalo. This part of the state is hilly and there are some nice streams and woods.