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Our first stop on our South Dakota Adventure (a 4-day weekend trip) was in Nebraska. Scotts Bluff National Monument was one of the waypoints on the trails that headed west across the United States. We visited seven years ago, but the drive to the top was closed and the Big Little was losing his mind.
On this visit, we left Colorado Springs in the afternoon and arrived at Scott’s Bluff in time to catch the movie, explore the visitors center, and head to the top of the bluff by car. (The visitors center and drive to the top have seasonal hours so check before planning your trip or heading over.) The Littles were also in much better spirits than on our last trip.
There are nearly four miles of trails at Scotts Bluff, but due to the heat, we stuck to mostly indoor activities. We did venture down the mostly level Oregon Trail Pathway. You walk past several covered wagons and where the asphalt ends you are on the actual Oregon Trail. Wagons formed a single file line to work their way through Mitchell Pass. So many wagons passed through here that you can actually see “swale” where wagon wheels wore a path in the rock.
You won’t want to miss driving the Scott’s Bluff Summitt Road. The 1.6-mile scenic drive goes through carved tunnels created by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The drive has stunning views of the surrounding area. We were able to catch a glimpse of Chimney Rock. (Chimeny Rock is a Nevada State Park. It is a 25 min drive to the East. We bypassed it… yet again.)
The Littles’ favorite part was, of course, the Scotts Bluff Jr. Ranger Packet. The Jr. Ranger packet can be picked up at the Scotts Bluff Visitors Center. It is easily completed during your visit. You’ll need to explore the museum (two rooms) and ask to see the movie. The scavenger hunt portion of the packet requires you to head outside to the wagon trail and drive up to the top.
I have to tell you that we also picked up the book that dominated the discussion for the rest of the weekend trip – Donner Dinner Party. The Big Little spotted the Donner Dinner Party graphic novel on the shelf at the NPS bookstore. I’m a sucker for a kid asking for a topically relevant book… ok well all books. We’ve had a few Oregon Trail stops this summer, so the Littles are very interested in the background behind the Donner Dinner Party. The book does a great job focusing on the survival requirements in this difficult situation. The boys loved the book and had a ton of questions! (When I posted this book on Instagram I got lots of recommendations for the podcast “You’re Wrong About” on the same topic. The “You’re Wrong About” podcast is where I learned that Abe Lincoln was almost part of the Donner Party. )
While in Scotts Bluff it is also worth stopping by the Rebecca Winter grave. She died on the Oregon Trail. Most graves were purposefully trampled to prevent scavenger animals from digging them up. Rebecca Winter’s grave was preserved thanks to a carved metal wagon wheel placed on top of the grave. It’s a stark reminder of the hardship of the Oregon Trail.
We stayed the night in Scott’s Bluff. We stumbled upon a fantastic tapas restaurant, The Tangled Tumbleweed. We ordered five plates to share and everything was very good. The portions are very hearty for tapas. The Tangled Tumbleweed also had an extensive bar menu, though we didn’t try anything.
The following day we were up and out early, on our way to Agate Fossil Beds.
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