Nebraska doesn't have a lot of national parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite, but it does have some. These parks showcase cultural sites and natural beauty to deliver stunning scenery and history.
The State of Nebraska is home to five national parks, and each is unique. From historic trails and still-standing homesteads to national monuments and gorgeous rock formations, these parks have something for everyone.
Established in 1936, Homestead National Historical Park commemorates the Homestead Act of 1862 and its impact on pioneer life. Its visitors' centre features exhibits that depict the hardships and accomplishments of 19th-century pioneer life, and traces the development of the Homestead movement under which more than one million U.S. citizens became landowners.
The 160-acre site includes the T-shaped claim that Daniel Freeman filed on January 1, 1863, the Freeman School, a typical eastern Nebraska cabin, and 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Homestead Heritage Center, dedicated in 2007, is designed to represent a "single bottom plow moving through the sod," and its parking lot measures exactly one acre (4,000 m2).
In addition to living history demonstrations by seasonal rangers, visitors can participate in special exhibitions and educational presentations at the Education Center. They can also explore a Farm Implement Room that showcases the tools homesteaders relied on for improving their land. The park is free, open daily except Thanksgiving and December 25, and has handicapped parking.
The land at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is a fascinating puzzle piece to the past. It is a place where people have lived and interacted with the plants, soils, bedrock, river and climate for tens of thousands of years.
The grass-covered plains and flat-top buttes of Agate are a unique unglaciated area, and contain some of the best preserved Miocene fossils in the world. These features record 20 million years of natural history.
Agate's landscape and the fossils found in it are part of a long story that tells about life on the Great Plains. During the Miocene Epoch, vast herds of plant-eating mammals grazed and browsed on the savannas of the High Plains. These animals were hunted by wolves, bears and other carnivores. The resulting sedimentary records are a rare glimpse into the ecology of these animals during that time and a valuable insight into global climate change in the Tertiary period.
The 3,000-acre Scotts Bluff National Monument protects unusual land formations that rise about 400 feet above the flat Nebraska prairie. These large buttes are one of the more recognizable landmarks in the Midwest.
These rock formations were first named Scott’s Bluff in 1828 after a fur trader who died in the vicinity. In the early years of the West, these bluffs were a favorite landmark for travelers along the Great Platte River Road.
They were also a popular stop for many people on the Oregon Trail as they traveled to Oregon and California. These travelers often noted Scott’s Bluff in their journals.
In addition to being a historical landmark, the region surrounding Scotts Bluff is also rich in fossils of extinct animals dating back 30 to 40 million years ago. These include saber-toothed tigers, pig-like Oreodonts, ancient forms of rhinoceroses and giant turtles.
The 76-mile Niobrara National Scenic River is a national treasure. It is home to cliffs, waterfalls, rock formations, ancient fossils and high water quality.
The river cuts a deep canyon into the limestone rocks that underlie the Sandhills. It teems with diverse wildlife. It supports a unique ecological crossroads where six distinct ecosystems converge and their associated flora and fauna mix.
There are a number of ways to experience this river including canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Most people float the river during the summer months, but winter is also a good time to float it as long as there are no ice problems.
The Niobrara River is a popular destination for game hunting, especially waterfowl and white-tailed deer. Hunting is possible on private land, but it is important to ask the owner for permission.