Nebraska Historical Marker: The Great Platte River Road

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The Great Platte River Road marker


Scenic turnout at mile marker 99, Interstate 80 Eastbound, Big Springs, Deuel County, Nebraska

View this marker's location 41.034233, -102.2112

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

Marker Text

Since 1841, Nebraska's Platte River Valley has been the historic highway of westward migration. In this area, the overland trail divided into two branches, one which followed the North and the other the South Forks of the River. Emigrants bound for Oregon or California crossed the South Platte near here and proceeded up the North Platte Valley past such milestones as Chimney Rock and Scott's Bluffs. After gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains in 1859, an increasing number of travelers followed the South Fork of the Platte to Denver and the mining camps.

Although the South Platte could be forded at several points, most frequently used was the "Old California Crossing," several miles east of present Big Springs. No matter which crossing was chosen, the wide, sandy river proved a formidable obstacle for the emigrants and their heavily laden wagons. Today, the Platte Valley remains an important thoroughfare across Nebraska and the Nation. A few miles east of here I-80 divides into two major routes, recalling the role of the South Platte Region as a junction for overland travel in the 19th Century.

Further Information


John E Carter, “The Platte River Road in 1866: Charles Savage’s Visual Narrative,” Nebraska History 89 (2008): 132-141

Merrill J Mattes, “The Council Bluffs Road: A New Perspective on the Northern Branch of the Great Platte River Road,” Nebraska History 65 (1984): 179-194

Marker program

See Nebraska Historical Marker Program for more information.