Nebraska Historical Marker: The Great Plains

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Nebraska Historical Marker: The Great Plains

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Location

I-80 Rest Area Westbound MM 271, Kearney, Buffalo County, Nebraska

View this marker's location 40.671154, -99.12191

View a map of all Nebraska historical markers, Browse Historical Marker Map

Marker Text

West-bound travelers will leave the prairie regions of eastern Nebraska and enter the Great Plains within the next fifty miles. This semi-arid region stretching from Canada to Mexico and westward toward the Rockies was long known as the Great American Desert. Most early explorers and travelers thought the region to be of little value except to Indians and ranchers. Thousands of overland travelers followed this, the Great Platte River Road, to the Golden West, but it was not until the establishment of Nebraska Territory in 1854 that pioneers could legally settle here.

Even so, it was more than a decade later, after the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, that settlement of the Plains could succeed economically. Since the Interstate highway follows the verdant Platte River Valley, travelers will recognize the change in geography only gradually. Valley farmers were among the first to recognize the importance of irrigation, which has now spread to the upland Plains. Today this is one of the richest and most productive areas in the Great Plains.

Further Information

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Bibliography

A Bower Sageser, “Windmill and Pump Irrigation on the Great Plains 1890-1910,” Nebraska History 48 (1967): 107-118

Marker program

See Nebraska Historical Marker Program for more information.