Western Trails

Nebraska has long been a natural corridor for transportation thanks to the Platte Valley. Follow along the many trails that have criss-crossed this state, and learn more about the hopes and hardships of these travelers.

Nebraska Centre - Boyd Ranche

James E. Boyd settled near here in 1858 and by 1860 operated a trail ranche supplying travelers on the Platte Valley Overland Route (Mormon Trail). The ranche included 200 acres of corn and barley. Nebraska Centre Post Office was here until if was…

Historic Platte Valley

Through this valley passed the Oregon Trail, highway for early explorers, fur traders, California-bound gold seekers, freighters, and brave pioneers seeking new homes in the West. Traffic was especially heavy from 1843 to 1866. At times as many as…

Genoa: 1857-1859

Genoa, named by the Mormon Pioneers, was among several temporary settlements established by the Church of the Latter Day Saints in 1857, along the 1000-mile trail from Florence, Nebraska to Salt Lake City. These settlements were to serve as…

Narcissa Whitman

Narcissa Whitman, trail-blazer and martyred missionary, is one of the great heroines of the frontier West. In 1836 she and Eliza Spalding, following the north side of the Platte on horseback, became the first white women to cross the American…

Amanda Lamme

On June 23, 1850, twenty-eight-year-old Amanda Lamme, a California-bound emigrant, died of cholera and was buried near here in what is now private pastureland. She was the wife of M.J. Lamme of Boone County, Missouri, and mother of three daughters.…

Lone Tree

Lone Tree, a giant, solitary cottonwood, was a noted Platte River landmark as early as 1833. Standing on the north side of the river some three miles southwest of present Central City, the tree was visible at great distance. Several travelers…

Sioux Lookout

Sioux Lookout, the highest point in Lincoln County, was a prominent landmark on the overland trials. From its lofty summit the development of the West unfolded before the eyes of the Sioux and other Indians. Trappers and traders came by here in 1813,…

Road Ranches Along the Platte

With the discovery of gold in the Rocky Mountains in the late 1850's, overland freighting and travel intensified. Every few miles westward along the trails, enterprising individuals established road ranches which offered lodgings and provisions…

California Hill

This hill, which became known as "California Hill," was climbed by thousands of emigrants heading west during the covered wagon migration, 1841-60. Many were bound for Oregon. California became the destination of a majority of overland…

The Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express

In the spring of 1859 William H. Russell and John S. Jones established The Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express to carry passengers and freight from the Missouri River to the Colorado gold fields. The route crossed northern Kansas, detouring…

Ash Hollow

Ash Hollow was famous on the Oregon Trail. A branch of the trail ran northwestward from the Lower California Crossing of the South Platte River a few miles west of Brule, and descended here into the North Platte Valley. The hollow, named for a growth…

Ash Hollow

Although some wagon trains continued to follow the South Platte, most crossed at one of several fords in this area and took a northwesterly route toward the North Platte River. The trail then followed the North Platte Valley through the remainder of…

The Forty-Niner Trail

During the nineteenth century the United States underwent a dramatic westward expansion, but perhaps no single event stimulated this mass migration more than the 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in California. Hundreds of thousands of…

Fort Laramie-Fort Robinson Trail

Near here are ruts left by the famed 1874 Sioux Expedition, a U.S. military force sent to establish Camps Sheridan and Robinson. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie had guaranteed food and supplies to the Sioux and other tribes in exchange for lands…

Rebecca Winters

Rebecca Winters, daughter of Gideon Burdick, a drummer boy in Washington's army, was born in New York State in 1802. She was a pioneer in the Church of the Latter Day Saints, being baptized with her husband Hiram in June 1833. Membership in the…

The Ox-Bow Trail

This marker sits astride the Ox-Bowl Trail, also known as the Old Fort Kearny or Nebraska City Road. Beginning in the 1840's, this route carried thousands of emigrants and millions of pounds of freight destined for the settlements, mining camps,…

Courthouse and Jail Rocks

Courthouse and Jail Rocks are two of the most famous landmarks of westward migration. Nearby passed the Oregon-California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Trail and the Sidney-Deadwood Trail. The rocks were vanguards of unforgettable scenic…

Chimney Rock

Rising 470 feet above the North Platte River Valley, Chimney Rock stands to the south as the most celebrated of all natural formations along the overland routes to California, Oregon, and Utah. Chimney Rock served as an early landmark for fur…

The Great Platte River Road

This is the Platte River Valley, America's great road west. It provided a natural pathway for westward expansion across the continent during the nineteenth century. Here passed the Oregon Trail, following the South Platte River along much the…

The Great Platte River Road

This is the Platte River Valley, America's great road west. It provided a natural pathway for westward expansion across the continent during the nineteenth century. Here passed the Oregon Trail, following the South Platte River along much the…

The Great Platte River Road

The Trail Which followed the south side of the Platte River was the main route to Oregon and California. Fur traders going to the Rocky Mountains took the first wagons over the trail in 1830. Oregon-bound missionaries followed in the mid-1830s, and…

Crossing the Overland Trail

Beneath this platform, evidence of the great westward migration still remains. These shallow depressions were once deep ruts created by thousands of hooves, shoes and wheels. The Overland Trail is often visualized as a single, well-defined roadway.…

Nebraska City - Fort Kearny Cut-Off

Massive freighting of supplies by ox and mule trains was a direct result of the establishment of Fort Kearny and other western military posts. The Mormon War and the discovery of gold in the territories of Colorado and Montana increased this trade,…

Nebraska City - Fort Kearny Cut-Off

Massive freighting of supplies by ox and mule trains was a direct result of the establishment of Fort Kearny and other western military posts. The Mormon War and the discovery of gold in the territories of Colorado and Montana increased this trade,…

Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff

You are near the old freighting trail of the Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff. Prior to railroad construction, thousands of wagons transported supplies to Fort Kearny and other military posts throughout the West. The Mormon War and the discovery of…

Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff

Thousands of oxen-drawn wagons passed here from 1860 to 1867, before completion of the Union Pacific Railroad across Nebraska. Carrying military and mining supplies, and emigrants moving west, they cut deep ruts across the tallgrass prairie and at…

Court House Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scott's Bluff

Traveling northwest from Ash Hollow, the emigrants encountered three natural features of the North Platte Valley which became well-known milestones. First was Court House Rock, rising abruptly from the plains as the vanguard of the bluffs farther on.…

Cowboy Capital

Named for the Oglala band of Dakota Sioux and located on the Union Pacific Railroad, Ogallala was a lusty cowtown of the Old West. From 1875 to 1885 it was a wild woolly cowboy capital where gold flowed across the gaming tables, liquor across the…

Pioneer Crossing

Crossing streams and rivers, in a region where roads were but trails and bridges were unknown, was a major problem to emigrants traveling by team and wagon. To find or construct a ford, such as Wilson's or Pioneer Crossing, was always necessary.…

The Old Fort Kearny (Nebraska City) Road

The "Old Fort Kearny" or "Nebraska City Road" was a major route for freighters, soldiers, and goldseekers between 1849 and 1866. The road was also known as the "Oxbow Trail," because it looped north from the site of Old…

Mormon Pioneer Campsite

In the early spring of 1847, several hundred pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) camped near here on their historic trek to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Driven from their homes in Illinois and Missouri, more…

The Mormon Trail

Brigham Young led the first mass migration over the Mormon Trail to the Great Salt Lake in 1847. The north bank of the Platte was chosen to avoid contact with the travelers on the heavily-used Oregon Trail that follows the south bank of the river…

The Mormon Trail

Religious freedom, an American ideal, has on occasion been denied certain sects because of prejudice. Mormons were once persecuted and forced from their homes. The north bank of the Platte River served as the exodus route for thousands of members of…

John Hollman Grave

It has been estimated that at least 20,000 persons died on the overland trail, between 1842 and 1859. This averages ten graves per mile over the 2,000 mile trail. Of the hundreds who died while crossing Nebraska, only seven identifiable graves…

The Oketo Cutoff

From October 1862 until March 1863 stagecoaches of the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express passed near here along the Oketo Cutoff. The cutoff diverged from the Ft. Leavenworth to Ft. Kearny Military Road northeast of Marysville,…

The Fort Pierre-Fort Laramie Trail

From about 1837 until 1850, more than a quarter million buffalo robes bought from Indians and 27 tons of fur company trade goods were hauled over the 300 mile long Fort Pierre-Fort Laramie Trail that followed the White River through this area. First…

Central Platte Valley

Here in Dawson County, much of the early history is concerned with the pioneer trails to the west. The Mormon Trail to Utah and the first transcontinental railroad passed through here on the north side of the Platte River; the Oregon Trail and the…

Central Platte Valley

Here in Dawnson County, much of the early history is concerned with the pioneer trails to the west. The Mormon Trail to Utah and the first transcontinental railroad passed through here on the north side of the Platte River; the Oregon Trail and the…

Platte River History

Just to the southwest is the Platte River, whose valley was one of the great roadways to the west, used by fur traders, emigrants, military expeditions, gold seekers, and Mormons. Mormon migration to the Salt Lake Valley began at Winter Quarters,…

Texas Trail Canyon

After the slaughter of the buffalo and the last of the Indian hunts, ranchers moved into this part of the Republican River country in 1875. Among them were I. P. and Ira Olive, who were using this canyon on their range in 1876. Herds of Texas cattle…

The Texas Trail

After the Civil War, herds of Texas cattle were driven north to marketing points in eastern Nebraska, but settlement by homesteaders forced the trail further west each year. Beginning in 1875, Union Pacific selected Ogallala as its main shipping…

The Great Platte River Route West

The north bank of the Platte River, from the 1830's through the 1860's, served as a major overland route to the West. It was used by fur traders, soldiers, gold seekers and other emigrants. The expedition of Major Stephen H. Long passed…

Camp Clarke Bridge and Sidney Black Hills Trail

Just north of here the Camp Clarke bridge crossed the North Platte River. The bridge was built in the spring of 1876 by entrepreneur Henry T. Clarke to improve the trail from the Union Pacific Railroad at Sidney, Nebraska, to the gold mining towns in…

Susan O. Hail Grave

To overland emigrants the rigors of the trail began with the "Coast of Nebraska," the ridge of sandhills separating the Platte Valley from the open prairie behind it. Thousands of emigrants passed this way during the peak emigration years…

The Oregon Trail

The most traveled of the overland routes passed this point on its way to the great Platte Valley, highway to the west. The Oregon Trail started from Independence, followed the Kansas River west, and then the Little Blue north into Nebraska. It…

Ponca Trail of Tears - White Buffalo Girl

A marker, 200 feet to the south, recalls the death of White Buffalo Girl of the Ponca tribe. The death of this child, daughter of Black Elk and Moon Hawk, symbolizes the tragic 1877 removal of the Ponca from their homeland on the Niobrara River to…

The Sidney-Black Hills Trail

Beginning in 1874 thousands of freight wagons and stagecoaches passed here along the Sidney-Black Hills Trail. The route first supplied the Sioux at Red Cloud Agency on the White River and the troops at adjacent Camp Robinson. The southern terminus…

Kearney - Fort Kearny

For the next fifty miles east-bound travelers will be passing from the semi-arid Great Plains into the country of eastern Nebraska. Near here are located the city of Kearney and Fort Kearny, for which it was named. The fort was established in 1847…

The Great Plains

West-bound travelers will leave the prairie regions of eastern Nebraska and enter the Great Plains within the next fifty miles. This semi-arid region stretching from Canada to Mexico and westward toward the Rockies was long known as the Great…

Shinn's Ferry

Moses Shinn and his son Dick began operating Shinn's Ferry across the Platte in 1859. The original site was near Savannah, the first Butler County seat, and a short distance from the present Schuyler bridge. Just above this location the Platte…

Joseph E. Johnson and The Huntsman's Echo

In April 1860 Joseph E. Johnson, a Mormon, established a road ranche at Wood River Centre, today's Shelton, and began publishing The Huntsman's Echo, the first newspaper in Nebraska west of Omaha. He had earlier edited papers in Council…
Recommended reading for the "Western Trails" tour.

James A Hanson, "A Forgotten Fur Trade Trail," Nebraska History 68 (1987): 2-9