The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument

We headed west from Grand Island to visit family in North Platte. On our way there we stopped at the Crane Meadows Nature Center In the spring and fall literally millions of sandhill cranes roost in the fields adjacent to the Platte River. The Center allows for tours and information as to where the best locations are to view the cranes. The main flock really doesn’t arrive until after the first part of April so I wasn’t able to get a field shot to include here. I did take a picture of a representation that was on display for those of you who might not know what a sandhill crane looks like. Note: cranes come in different sizes and colors. When we lived in this area, this was one of the most remarkable natural events that took place each fall and spring. Having lived on South Padre Island in Texas and now in Minnesota, I can say I’ve followed the U.S. migration of the cranes from south to north. They are beautiful to watch in flight, fun to listen to as they roost and impressive when one considers they’ve been following these same migration patterns for nine million years according to fossil studies. There are about 200 Whooping cranes that migrate through the Platte River valley each spring and fall as well. They are one of the most endangered species in the world. Interesting note: cranes designate “loafing places” where they relax, drink, and mate…much the same as what occurs in coffee houses for humans. Sometimes cranes “loaf” for as much as a month to replenish fat and other nutrients they expend as they make their travels north or south.

We also stopped at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. It spans Interstate 80 just before you reach Kearney, Nebraska. My son, Chris took this photo so you could get an idea of what the archway looks like as you approach it on Interstate 80.

The Archway was put in place in 1999. The Interstate was closed for 8 hours while the arch was raised and set on the support beams and secured. Inside there is a place to eat, a gift shop and the main focus is the walk through tour of the history of migration through the prairies of Nebraska as settlers moved west.

The exhibition starts you off riding an escalator up into the opening of the arch. Projected on a wall is a moving display of prairie activities of the period. Once inside the Archway, you are greeted by a person dressed for the period who provides you with a set of wireless headphones to wear as you walk through the exhibits at your leisure. Each area provides a narration that also includes lighting and sound effects. The displays start in the early 1800’s and progress to today.

I’ve included a couple photos below. They are a bit dark because of the lighting inside.

It’s a unique concept and we enjoyed the visit. I was a bit disappointed that they did not provide information regarding the effects western expansion had on the Native Americans and the contributions Native Americans made to the growth of our country during this time. Perhaps that will be an exhibit in the future. I did notice they are working on some outdoor exhibits that show how Native Americans lived during the period.

Tomorrow I’ll try to get a few shots of things indigenous to North Platte, like Buffalo Bill Cody and his Rest Ranch. Bill Cody has a place in my wife, Ruth’s family since her grand mother, Olive Rice, met him on several occasions but according to Ms. Rice, he was a bit of an egotist (a result no doubt of his showmanship) and not always the most well-bathed person. In studying Bill Cody’s career as an entertainer; however, I’ve noted a number of similarities in the manner in which he interspersed words of wisdom and entertainment between the music numbers and acts, not so unlike a local Northfield entertainment icon I think…..

About Gary Smith

Chief Smith has served over 31 years in the criminal justice field. He is currently a consultant assisting public and private organizations better establish community goals and ethical conduct with the members of their organizations. Chief Smith serves as a facilitator, lecturer, professor and other capacities both inside and outside the criminal justice field.
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