You know about the seven wonders of the world – those magnificent places that are unlike anywhere else on the planet. But did you know that we have some wonders right here in Nebraska as well? They may not be quite as grand as those planetary-scale wonders, but they are some of the most incredible places you can visit in our state.
7. Carhenge, Alliance
This work of art, created in 1987 by artist Jim Reinders, is one of western Nebraska's most recognizable man-made landmarks. It's a full-scale replica of the English Stonehenge, built with cars instead of stones. What was once a kitschy tourist attraction has now been embraced by Nebraska as part of our state's identity.
6. Ashfall Fossil Beds, Royal
Ashfall, in Antelope County, is a rare and stunning fossil site that captures a moment in history.
Some 10 to 12 million years ago, a volcanic eruption brought a thick blanket of ash down over what is now Nebraska. The initial fall didn't kill all of the animals in the area, however - that happened over time as the animals breathed in the ash until it caused their lungs to fail.
This particular site was once a watering hole, and the animals that had gathered around to find fresh water fell where they stood, their skeletons perfectly preserved. Some even had their last meals in their stomachs. The fossils include those of rhinos, horses, camels, birds, dogs, and even a species of saber-toothed deer.
5. The Nebraska Sandhills
It would be hard to overstate the simple beauty of the Sandhills region which covers more than 25 percent of the state. The plant-anchored sand dunes (the largest in the Western hemisphere, by the way) were thought by early settlers to be utterly useless; thus the area was dubbed "The Great American Desert."
Thankfully, the region was finally recognized as the spectacular ecologically-unique, biologically-diverse land that it is. Several species of plants and birds are found here that can't be found anywhere else. And thankfully for smart settlers who stuck out the hard times here to figure out how to use the land, the region also happens to make superb ranching land.
4. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scottsbluff
The formations at Scotts Bluff were often noted in migrants' journals as they crossed the state. These impressive rock outcroppings marked the near-end of the plains and told settlers they were closer than ever to their new homes. Today, it's a remarkable pleasure to take a trip to the top of the bluffs and look out on beautiful western Nebraska.
3. State Capitol Building, Lincoln
Truly one of the most impressive buildings in Nebraska, the capitol building was designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. The construction took place over a decade (1922-1932) and contains elements of Gothic and Classical architectural styles. Inside, ornate murals, mosaics and carvings provide non-stop visual interest. There are 48 steps leading up to the building, representing the number of US states when the capitol was built.
2. Chimney Rock, near Bayard
This impressive natural rock formation near Bayard was the single most documented natural feature mentioned in the journals of travelers on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. In 1956 it was designated a National Historic Site and is now maintained by the NE State Historical Society. A visitor's center on the site provides plenty of information about the formation's history.
1. Toadstool Geological Park, in the Ogallala National Grassland, northwestern Nebraska
This otherworldly region has been called the badlands of Nebraska, and it's not hard to see why. The incredible rock formations look like the landscape you'd find on alien planets, and the region is rich with ancient fossils. You might just spot a few as you walk through the park.
This list is highly subjective, and it is so difficult to pare down all of the wonderful things in Nebraska to just seven. You may have different wonders in mind. Feel free to share your own ‘7 Wonders’ list with us in the comments!