Thanks to spearheads found in Nebraska, archaeologists know that people have lived here for at least 13,500 years. Native American tribes arose many thousands of years after the arrival of the first inhabitants, including the Cheyenne, Lakota and Dakota Sioux, Omaha, Oto, Pawnee, Sauk, and Ponca. Omaha, Ponca, Winnebago, Oglala Sioux, and Santi Sioux still exist in Nebraska. French and Spanish explorers attempted to claim the land starting in the 1500s, but left much of the area unexplored. In 1803, France sold the area to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Some of the first settlers arrived along the Oregon Trail, a rough 2,170-mile route that people crossed covered wagons. In 1862, during the Civil War, the Homestead Act offered families 160 acres of land in the west in exchange for building and farming the land for five years. Nebraska’s population grew rapidly, and the territory became a state in 1867. The name of this state comes from the Native American words which mean “flat water”. The phrase refers to the Platte River, which flows through the state. The University of Nebraska gave the state its nickname because the school’s football team is called the Cornhackers. Why call it after someone who peels corn? Because the state grows so much! Nebraska is the third largest producer of corn in the United States.
Geography of Nebraska
According to itypetravel.com, Nebraska is bordered by South Dakota to the north, Iowa and Missouri to the east, Kansas to the south, Colorado to the south and west, and Wyoming to the west. The area can be divided into two main regions: the Scattered to the Plains and the Great Plains. Scattered to plains cover eastern Nebraska. When glaciers melted in this region at the end of the last ice age, they formed a mixture of sand, gravel and boulders. Today the area has low hills and deposits of loess, which are windblown sediment. The Great Plains spread throughout the state. This area is flat with several canyons and valleys, as well as lakes and wetlands. The area is also home to the state’s highest peak, Panorama Point. Do you want sand dunes? Central Nebraska boasts the largest mound distribution in North America. Called the Sand Hills, the dunes stretch over 20,000 square miles. The far northwest is home to another unusual area: the Badlands, where the wind has shaped the sandstone into strange, pointed, and even mushroom-like shapes. See Nebraska cities.
Wildlife of Nebraska
Bison were nearly extirpated in the 1800s, but some still roam today in the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Sanctuary in north-central Nebraska. Other native mammals include pronghorns (the second fastest land mammal after cheetahs!), antelopes, coyotes, female rabbits and prairie dogs. More than 400 species of birds fly through the state, including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, purple-green swallows, and western grasslands (the state bird). Dazzling turtles and bull snakes are common reptiles in Nebraska, while the shy, slender glass lizard is rarely seen. Rare Blend Turtles can be seen in the Sand Hills. Amphibians such as American bullfrogs, Great Plains toads, and western tiger salamanders hop and slither across the state. The eastern cotton tree is the state tree of Nebraska and is commonly found near bodies of water. Other common trees include black walnut, red oak, slippery elm, ponderosa pine and boxelder maple. Some of the state’s many wildflowers are star cucumber, chicory, pink primrose, wild blue flax, and leopard lily. The underground water supply, called the High Plains Aquifer, means that the fertile soil in Nebraska is ideal for growing crops. This is one of the reasons why this area is called “America’s breadbasket”. Other natural resources include oil and gas. Former President Gerald Ford, former Vice President Dick Cheney, philanthropist and businessman Warren Buffett, tennis player Andy Roddick, actress Hilary Swank and dancer Fred Astaire were born in Nebraska. The largest mammoth skeleton on display is at the University of Nebraska State Museum. They called him “Archie”! The skinny stone spire of Chimney Rock in Scott’s Bluff was a famous landmark for pioneers traveling west. Made from volcanic ash and clay, the natural wonder has been shaped by erosion. About 12 million years ago, a volcanic event killed animals such as saber-toothed deer, raccoon dogs, and giraffe-like camels. Today you can see their fossilized remains at the Ashfall Petrified Mine in northeast Nebraska. In England there is Stonehenge, the famous mystical circle of stones. The Alliance has the Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge made from old cars!