Day 4 – North Platte, Nebraska

by JP on Apr.30, 2010, under Day 4

Waking up in the Gothenberg, Nebraska KOA provided a great start to Day 4. Our final drive through Nebraska on Day 4 would bring us to several neat geological features, like Scottsbluff and the Chimney Rock, but not before some western history and fun in North Platte, NE.

Gothenberg KOA

Gothenberg, NE

Waking up in Nebraska in June was a little surprising to this shorts-wearing Southerner. While the previous day had been fairly warm, the morning was the first real sign of cold I had experienced, and we still had a few more northwardly changes in latitude to make.

The camp itself was probably one of the nicest KOA’s I’ve been to. The primitive campsite was almost empty, and sat right along a very active creek (the KOA site calls them “braids of the South Platte River.” In fact, as I got out of my tent, I became really interested in some loud noises I heard coming there.

Crossing over some thick brush, I found numerous carp popping up out of the water. I’m guessing there were 20 or 30, and they were very active.  It was really the first sign of true wildlife I had seen since we left Georgia. These large fish were really cool to watch as they would leap out of the water.

Gothenberg, NE (12) Gothenberg, NE (10)

My interest in the fish resulted was followed quickly by my second real run in with wildlife. As all hikers should know, walking in high grass and brush without bug spray or long pants can result in some unfortunate bug bites. In my case, I found three ticks latched on to my legs and clothing. The first bit me, but the other two never made it above my socks. Dumb mistake on my part, but no real harm since I caught them.

After breakfast, we departed the KOA reluctantly, it was really a very peaceful campground.

North Platte, Nebraska

North Platte, NE

Our next stop was just up the i-80 interstate in North Platte, NE. North Platte (named after the river running through it) is home to several attractions worth seeing. This is the location where Buffalo Billy Cody made his home, the location of the Golden Spike Tower (rising above the largest railroad yard in the world), and the home of the very touristy souvenir shop, Fort Cody Trading Post.

Buffalo Bill Cody Scout’s Rest Ranch

Buffalo Bill Cody

Scout Rest Ranch is a Nebraska State Park and was the home of Buffalo Bill Cody when he wasn’t touring with his Wild West Show. The home has been restored to its Victorian appearance as it was when Cody lived there. Inside the home are authentic furniture from the time period, and artifacts chronicling the legendary showman’s history and his visitors in the home. While the house is historically very interesting to see, we really enjoyed walked the rest of the  25 acre ranch.

North Platte, NE (14) Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill Cody

To us, the ranch epitomizes our ideas of Nebraska prairies.  In addition to several smaller outbuildings, a tremendous two-story red barn sits behind the house.  I’m not sure any other barn in existence better fits the mental prototype I have of a barn (pictured above at North Platte).

Buffalo Bill Cody

Inside, it contains wagons, ranching equipment, and numerous artifacts from the Wild West Show. It is two stories, and both can be explored.

This state park is also a living history exhibit, and as such it contains horses and buffalo as well. This was our first sight of buffalo, although they weren’t the wild ones we were still looking forward to seeing.

Buffalo Bill Cody

Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Yard

North Platte, NE

After leaving Scout’s Rest Ranch, we went in search of the world’s largest railroad yard, located in North Platte. For the world’s largest anything, it is exceptionally hard to find the correct road to it.

North Platte, NE

The Golden Spike Tower is an 8 story tower and museum that rises above the railroad yard to display the true enormity of this place. Unfortunately for us, the tower wasn’t set to open for several hours, and so we were forced to take in the yard from the ground level. Even from there, Bailey yard’s 2800 acres of moving trains is immense.

Fort Cody Trading Post

Fort Cody

Our last stop in North Platte was a complete tourist shop, and I must admit, I loved every minute of it. This souvenir shop can be seen immediately exiting the interstate due to its giant wooden Buffalo Bill statute, and log fort exterior, complete with armed pioneer protection sitting atop it.

Fort Cody Fort Cody

Inside the trading post has every wild west souvenir one can imagine, from toy boys and arrows to bottled sarsaparillas. More interesting though is the moving miniaturized version of the Wild West Show.

This miniature show contains over 20,000 pieces each hand carved over 12 years. The show wraps around about 1/4th of the store and begins its movements on an interval that is announced in the store.

Fort Cody

The store also contains a museum of Old Western Cowboy Gear, a two-headed calf, and an interactive stockade yard. The yard is complete with the Fort Cody Jail, giant Indians, and a teepee.  The whole experience really is a lot of fun.

Fort Cody

After buying our sarsaparillas and souvenirs, we hit the interstate again for some more natural surroundings.

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