Sunday, August 22, 2010

On to Nebraska

We left Rock Creek COE Park on Wednesday after a visit to Johnsonville Park, just up the road, where the dogs enjoyed a good run and John and I worked out a few kinks. (It was interesting that the Corps of Engineers and/or Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department cut and baled grass in the park areas not covered by timber.)

From what we can tell so far, Nebraska parks, whether State or County, are well worth a visit. Because of low temperatures in the winter (we assume) water is not available at individual camp sites as it is farther south. However, there are central locations where we can fill our fresh water tank.

Our first stop was Indian Cave State Park in the far southeastern corner of the state, near Shubert. Covering more than 3300 acres, the park's eastern boundary lies alongside the Missouri River on rugged, hilly, heavily-timbered land. This photo of the Missouri was taken from a bluff overlooking the site where, in 1804, the Louis and Clark Expedition weathered a violent thunderstorm. Accounts said they were able to save their boats only when members of the crew jumped overboard and physically held them off the rocks until the storm passed.

The Indian Cave SP includes the reconstructed mid-19th Century settlement of St. Deroin, the first townsite in Nemah County, NE. The town's history is interesting. In 1830, 125,000 acres were set aside in the Treaty of Prairie du Chien for the homeless offspring left by traders and trappers who married Indian women. Joseph Deroin, the son of a French man and an Otoe woman, moved onto the tract, and in 1853 laid out the village that bears his name. (Speculation is that the "Saint" was attached to the town's name after it was founded, probably to attract more settlers.) Joseph Deroin was described as an "overbearing and tyrannical" man, who unfortunately met a violent and untimely end in an altercation with another settler. St. Deroin before the turn of the century was a thriving settlement of some 300 people. However, it was doomed by an outbreak of cholera and the shifting channel of the Missouri River. By 1920 the town was virtually abandoned. Some of the restored buildings from the original settlement are shown here.

Indian Cave SP could use some maintenance on its roads, but nonetheless it is beautiful. The sites are shaded by large trees, well-maintained, and are mowed on a regular basis. The park has 134 RV sites, but when we were there, there were only about 6 RVs in the entire park. As you can see, we had an entire section all to ourselves. Park personnel said that September and October are very busy, so we're glad we visited before the crowds came.
A pleasant three hours later, we were in Nebraska. This part of the world revolves around Agriculture.....with a capital A. Corn is King. They raise huge quantities of not only No. 2 Yellow Corn (brought to our attention by The Omnivore's Dilemma), but also popcorn and sweet corn. Beans are Queen. Many are soybeans, with dark green, glossy leaves, but Nebraska is also known for the quantity of great northern beans and pinto beans it raises. Wherever you look, as in this photo, you see acres and acres of one or both.

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