Travelers driving to Scotts Bluff National Monument are traveling right on the Oregon Trail. At the base of the bluff the Oregon Trail Museum displays weapons and tools of pioneers – including heirloom glassware lovingly wrapped in blankets for the arduous journey, diaries, and even children’s toys – a rarity considering that wagon space was at a premium. The museum houses the William Henry Jackson collection of his frontier paintings and photography. Many of his works depict scenes from the lives of the pioneers.
Summit Road leads travelers through tunnels to the top of Scotts Bluff. The monument’s trails are open during daylight hours. 190276 Old Oregon Trail. (308) 436-9700.
Adjacent to the monument to the east is the Legacy of the Plains Museum. There are pioneer and early Gering and Scottsbluff items here, but the main focus is agriculture. The museum’s 80-acre farm is worked with antique equipment. The Panhandle’s sugar beet and ranching industries are highlighted in exhibits here, and special events such as the Harvest Festival and High Plains Christmas add extra entertainment for visitors. Energetic visitors can compare their horsepower to that of a real horse. 2930 Old Oregon Trail. (308) 436-1989.
The Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area encompasses 531 acres of this unique ecosystem where prairie rattlers still rattle from rocky ledges and occasional glimpses of stealthy mountain lions are reported. Camping, hiking and wildlife viewing are popular here. Photography opportunities abound. Wildflowers are abundant in spring and summer and include species more common in the Rocky Mountains than in the rest of Nebraska. The area’s nature center received a major addition of more than 8,700 square feet in late 2016. Ten miles south of Gering on Highway 71. (308) 436-3777.
For more information contact the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau at visitgering.com or (308) 436-6886.