Nebraska October 19, 2016
This Natural Wonders Road Trip Will Show You Nebraska Like You’ve Never Seen It Before
Earlier this year, we brought you a
natural wonders road trip that covered many of the spectacular natural treasures of western and north-central Nebraska. Now we’re back with another natural wonders road trip – this time, through eastern Nebraska and part of central Nebraska. We can’t squeeze all of Nebraska’s natural wonders into one (or even two!) road trips, but we think these are some of the most spectacular. We definitely recommend taking side trips and exploring new places along the way whenever possible.
Start out from any point you like and follow the route - or make your own path along country roads! Find the interactive map
and re-route, add destinations, or remove destinations as needed.
1. Crane Trust, Wood River
If you wait until March to take this trip and align it with the sandhill crane migration, you will experience one of the most incredible natural wonders in the entire country. But even if you can't make the migration, the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center features walking trails that will take you over the lovely and historically significant Platte River. It's so beautifully peaceful here.
2. Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Denton
Travel the many walking trails through 850 acres of beautiful tallgrass prairie and imagine what Nebraska must have looked like centuries ago.
3. Lincoln Saline Wetland Nature Center (and the saline wetlands), Lincoln
It's amazing just how many people don't know about Nebraska's saline wetlands. This unique area is home to a diverse collection of plants and animals, and there are 14 different saline wetland areas to explore. Visit the nature center at the east end of Capitol Beach Lake for more information on the area. A wood chip trail at the center lets you walk around and explore on your own.
4. Indian Cave State Park and the Missouri Valley, Shubert
One of the most spectacular sights in eastern Nebraska is the Missouri Valley all decked out in its fall colors. There is no better vantage point than at the lookout at Indian Cave State Park. The cave with prehistoric petroglyphs and some fantastic hiking trails are other great reasons to add this spot to your trip.
5. Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park, Ashland
The park itself is obviously no natural wonder, but the animals inside certainly are. The four-mile drive-through park will show you native North American wildlife up close and personal, letting you get a little closer to nature.
6. Fontenelle Forest, Bellevue
Explore the miles of walking trails and the stunning Great Marsh, all within a dense 1,400-acre forest. This is a bird-watcher's paradise, especially in the fall when huge clouds of migrating birds all but block out the sun - it's an intense experience.
7. Glacier Creek Preserve, Bennington
This restored tallgrass prairie lets you step back in time to a Nebraska that existed before European settlement. Woodlands and wetlands add interesting points as you walk through this pristine natural wonder.
8. Ashfall Fossil Beds, Royal
Step WAY back in time at this unique fossil site. Hundreds of animals died here some 12 million years ago following a massive supervolcano eruption in present-day Idaho. The animals were at a watering hole, and their fossils have been preserved in situ so that visitors can experience this awe-inspiring site. You can even watch the ongoing excavation!
9. Niobrara Valley Preserve, Johnstown
This enormous 56,000-acre nature preserve stretches across Brown the border between and Keya Paha Counties. It has been called a "biological crossroads" thanks to the many types of ecosystems represented here. Stop in at the visitors center for some information or to book a bison-viewing tour. Hike the beautiful trails or take some time out of your travels to float down the Niobrara River for an afternoon.
10. Nebraska National Forest, Bessey Ranger District, Halsey
Part of the nation's largest hand-planted forest, the Bessey Ranger District provides endless opportunities for exploration and recreation. You can even camp here year-round, so immersing yourself in nature is still possible even in the colder months.
This trip will take you a little over 13 hours in driving time alone, so plan on spending at least a weekend exploring all of these places. There are so many more natural wonders (and tourist attractions) along the way that just wouldn’t fit into one map, so don’t limit yourself to these 10. Nebraska is a spectacular place – get out there and explore!
Did you miss our first Natural Wonders Road Trip?
Check it out here.