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Platte River
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The Platte River Destination covers a portion of southern Nebraska along the state’s shared border with Kansas. Flowing from the west to the east is the destination’s namesake, the Platte River, with multiple cities established along its course. Two of Nebraska’s fairly significant cities, North Platte and Kearney, occupy land in relatively close proximity to the riverside. The city of North Platte is found west of the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers, which integrate with the Platte River. On account of its location in a North-South Corridor for migratory birds, a relatively high quantity of waterfowl and crane species can be found along the Platte River, such as the sandhill crane.[2] Many of the tourist sites that are found in the destination’s cities bear historical significance. William F. Cody’s influence on North Platte’s culture resulted in a few present-day attractions, including Buffalo Bill Ranch and the celebration known as Nebraskaland Days.[6][7] Similarly, Kearney contains a few historic museums where people can learn about the city’s relation to the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express trails.[8] For those who hope to visit the Platte River Destination to engage in outdoor activities, it is suggested to go between mid-June and early September for moderate temperatures.[3]

What Platte River is known for

Comprising a portion of southern Nebraska in the heart of the United States, the Platte River Destination encompasses a number of cities as well as open grassland areas. The Platte River is the eponym for the destination—coursing approximately 310 miles west to east across Nebraska’s central southern division in the Great Plains region. With the inclusion of the North Platte River, which is one of the Platte River’s tributaries, it extends to roughly 1,050 miles in length. The river itself serves as a tributary to the Mississippi River along Nebraska’s eastern border. Several cities are established along the river, namely Lexington, Gothenburg, Cozad, Maxwell, Elm Creek, Gibbon, Hershey, Kearney, and North Platte, the latter two being a couple of the most prominent cities found in Nebraska.[1]

The city of North Platte is situated between two of the Platte River’s tributaries, the North Platte River and the South Platte River. As of 2023, the city’s population totaled an estimation of about 22,394 residents, with an annual decline rate of -1.28%.[4] North Platte’s historical sites are a notable draw for tourism in the city, as a few buildings and events pertain to William F. Cody, also known as Buffalo Bill. An event called Nebraskaland Days is recognized by many locals and visitors as “the official celebration of the state of Nebraska,” celebrating Buffalo Bill’s influence on North Platte and the city’s western culture. The festivities typically last for 10 days every June, and throughout that time, visitors can attend several rodeos, a parade, and country concerts, among other activities.[7]

Akin to North Platte, Kearney contains a few historic sites and multiple museums that feature exhibits of the California, Oregon, Mormon, and Pony Express routes. Nebraska’s official art collection is showcased at the Museum of Nebraska Art, located at the center of Kearney. Some of the artwork that can be viewed at this museum dates back 175 years. Furthermore, tourists can visit the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument to learn about the history of the Platte River from the Oregon Trail days to the present. On one occasion, the Archway was the setting for a scene in the movie About Schmidt.[8]


The Platte River and its tributaries are the drainage channels for over 86,000 square miles in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Native grasslands, pine forests, and eastern deciduous forests compose its encompassing ecosystem. The Platte River valley and basin are home to many of Nebraska’s native wildlife species, as over 400 different types of birds have been spotted along the river. Numerous waterfowls, including the sandhill crane, reside near the river due to its location in the middle of the Central Flyway—a primary North-South Corridor for migratory birds. Notably, before flying north to their nesting grounds, about 80% of the world’s population of sandhill cranes spend four to six weeks in the Platte Valley.[2]

Located in the destination’s southern region is Harlan County Lake. Many of those who enjoy outdoor activities frequent the lake for recreation. Harlan County Lake covers a 13,250-acre expanse where people can go fishing, camping, hunting, boating, and swimming. Some of the potential catches that fishermen may find in the lake’s waters are walleye, largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, crappie, and wiper. Visitors who enjoy hunting or fur harvesting may find bobcats, beavers, coyotes, mink, muskrats, raccoons, and opossums inhabiting the lake's vicinity.[10] 

A fair amount of land that surrounds the Platte River is utilized for agricultural purposes as farmers cultivate their crops using the river. Rainfall tends to spike the flow in the river, though compared to the amount of precipitation Fremont receives in eastern Nebraska, the North and South Platte Rivers are subject to less rainfall.[9] 

North Platte, and other cities along the Platte River, generally experience what some people have characterized as “hot and clear” summers, while the winter season has been described as “freezing, snowy, windy, and partly cloudy.” Temperatures vary between the range of 14 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year; those who plan on engaging in warm-weather activities are encouraged to visit North Platte between mid-June and early September for more moderate temperatures. From June to September, temperatures rise to about 78 degrees Fahrenheit on average, and July tends to receive the highest temperatures, which reach around 88 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the winter season, the average temperature drops below 48 degrees Fahrenheit from November to February. Visitors may find that the lowest temperatures most commonly occur during January, with an average low of 15 degrees Fahrenheit and a high of 39 degrees Fahrenheit.[3]


Fur trappers and French explorers were the first Europeans to explore the Platte River circa 1714. At the time, the river was initially referred to as “Nebraskier,” a name that was given by the Otoe people. This term translates to English meaning “flat water,” which relates rather closely to “rivière plate,” the French expression for “flat river.” Thus, the present name, “Platte River,” was manifested through the river’s French heritage.[1]

The Platte River bears historical significance, as both the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail followed the river’s course. Opportunities for hunting and the provision of water drew a considerable number of American trappers to the river as well. Throughout the 1860s, the railroad route for the Pony Express was furnished, as well as the Union Pacific fraction of the first transcontinental railroad. This is presumably the reason that a few of Nebraska’s largest cities are located along or near the Platte River on account of the railroads. Several fur trading posts, such as Fort Kearny, can be found near the Platte River, which oftentimes draws those who take an interest in the river’s historical significance.[2]

Buffalo Bill Ranch is one of the most prominent historical sites in North Platte. The ranch formerly served as the residence for William F. Cody, also known as “Buffalo Bill,” from 1886 to 1913. Cody began working for Russell, Majors, and Waddell at age nine—a freighting firm out of Kansas, which also started the Pony Express. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Cody supplied buffalo meat for the Kansas Pacific Railway, ultimately earning him the nickname “Buffalo Bill.” In the 1880s, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show took place, and Cody toured several different places throughout the United States and Europe. The show’s success gave Cody the financial stability that was necessary to construct what the locals referred to as “The Mansion on the Prairie.” This building is a Second Empire-style home that was reportedly rated the “largest house in North Platte in the late 19th century.” Currently, tourists can visit the mansion and learn more about Buffalo Bill’s history.[6]

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Cambridge Bed and Breakfast is located in Cambridge, Nebraska. The home offers four rooms for people to reserve. Each room has a different name and each one is associated with a person or place related to Cambridge, Nebraska. Breakfast is included for each reservation, and its menu and serving time may be influenced by guest preferences. Andela, the manager of the property says that she hopes guests feel "like [they] are coming to [stay] at a museum." The home was initially built in the 1910s but did not act as part of the hospitality industry until the 1990s. Various attractions and activities are available to patrons around the Cambridge Bed and Breakfast, and suggestions are often provided by the staff and owner.

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