Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fort Robinson State Park, Nebraska

September 1 - 4, 2016:

It’s an 80 mile drive from Wind Cave National Park to Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford, Nebraska.  We take route 385 south through Hot Springs to route 20 west to Crawford, normally an easy drive, but the 50 MPH crosswinds are not normal and I had my hands full.  It was all wide open prairie country and huge ranch lands.  Nebraska is a new state for us and so far the scenery is more interesting than expected.

Welcome to Nebraska

Wide open prairie as far as you can see

Fort Robinson State Park is huge with three separate campgrounds, we opted for a full hookup site in the Red Cloud campground.  We came early to grab a first come, first served campsite before the masses arrive for the holiday weekend.  We had an issue when plugging into the power post with the RV surge protector sensing over voltage and not allowing power into the RV.  I saw that the voltage was 133 volts, slightly over the 132 volt threshold, but as I watched it, the voltage dropped to 131 and the surge protector cycled back in.  As it was so close to the allowed threshold, I switched the surge protector off as I don’t think the extra one volt is going to hurt anything and the cycling on/off is far worse. 

This Fort has much history going back to it’s establishment as Camp Robinson in 1874 during the Indian war days.  The original purpose of the Fort was to protect the Red Cloud Indian Agency.  The Red Cloud Agency was an Indian agency for the Oglala Lakota, the Northern Cheyenne and the Arapaho tribes.  This area was a real hot bed of tribal conflict in these days and they were involved in much fighting.  The Fort was rebuilt and enlarged in 1887 becoming a Calvary regimental headquarters.  The Fort was utilized for varying things after the Indian wars period ended around 1890.  It became the World’s largest training and breeding center of horses and mules, the training center for the US Equestrian team, a War Dog Training Corps site, a German POW camp, a USDA soil conservation and Cattle research center and finally a Nebraska State park under the the Nebraska Game and Parks Commision.  A few of the original 1876 Fort buildings have been reconstructed and the latter buildings have been restored.

Originally named Camp Robinson for
Lt. Robinson who was killed just prior
to establishment of the fort

The Brick Barracks are now the Ft. Robinson Inn, restaurant
and office

The officers housing was very nice

Rows of officers quarters

They weren't roughing it much

Reconstructed original log structure

This park is huge, 22,000 acres with two museums, a number of military buildings open for viewing, an Inn and restaurant, rental houses and cabins, horse stables and horse rides, a rodeo arena, a swimming complex, a fishing lake, carriage rides, Jeep rides, a small store and many hiking trails and scenic drives.  It has more amenities than any State Park we have ever been to.  There is also a  Natural History Museum there with an interesting Mammoth exhibit.

The Trailside Museum of Natural History

Two Mammoths were uncovered with their tusks hooked
together.  It is suspected that this occurred in a fight and
they both died as a result

This is an artists rendering of the battle

A few miles away is the town of Crawford, full of history, once a bustling town, now fairly run down although the residential, for the most part, looks nice.  The former grandeur is still apparent in many of the old buildings.  It’s another railroad town, originally the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley RR, these days the Union Pacific still running through and with a rail maintenance yard.  There is a nice city park with an impressive stone gate that have old machine guns on top, a little unusual.  After dark, the only lights on downtown are the lights of The R Bar and the The Other Bar.  The Other Bar was clean and nicely appointed with several ranchers in cowboy dress with white hats.  The R Bar has a decidedly more hard drinking “Honkey Tonk” feel to it.  There is also the Crawford Historical Society Museum.

They are very serious about sports in Nebraska

Don't think I've ever seen a City Hall
with a Chevy pickup truck tailgate
bench in front

The R Bar

The Rodeo is still big in Crawford

There are many of these signs embedded in the sidewalk, I suspect
the Colonel was quite a character

I suspect not many vegetarians in town

Old Nash-Finch building with interesting
ghost signs

A gravel road goes out into the prairie at the park to a trailhead for hiking and hunting, also they do horse trail rides there, sounds like a bad mix to me ?  It’s a beautiful ride through tall grass with lots of bird life and passes a working old windmill with an overflowing stock tank.  The efficiency of these old Windmills is amazing !  I returned latter and took the trail up to the Butte top which is a beautiful white limestone formation.  You were able to see in both directions for hundreds of miles.

Along the road through the prarrie

The old Wind Mill is still pumping

The movement of the tall grass in the wind was beautiful

Most interesting Sandstone formations

A view from a precarious slope

An exhilarating view from the top of the Butte

We are tiring of this tourist stuff and decide to see the real Nebraska.  We start by going to the pie and ice social at the Crawford Historical Society Museum.  The museum is small but has lots of interesting local artifacts and the homemade pie and ice cream was about as good as it gets.  Afterwards we go behind the rodeo grounds to the Mud Bog Races.  It was strictly amateur, home built, mostly Ford and Chevy pickup trucks who run side by side down two race courses, turned around and then raced back to the start line.  The majority of the races were not very close and many of the competitors barely made it through, but the course was pretty tough looking.

Super friendly volunteers at the Museum
social and the pie was fantastic !

Incredible advertising banner on display

Stolen rare saddle that was recovered during a
raid on a local house of ill repute

The mud bog track

One of the nicer trucks appropriately called "Mud Flap"

Look at those exhaust stacks and mud splash

We then drive about 18 miles out on a dusty gravel road into the prairie and the Oglala Grasslands to the Toadstool Geologic Park.  It’s a scenic ride along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks with long freight trains loaded with coal cars running frequently.  The Toadstool Geological Park has a one mile loop trail through these unique eroded sandstone rock formations and prehistoric dinosaur trackways.  It was about 90 degrees and the sun was making it feel like 100 so it was a quick, but beautiful tour.

Beautiful views

A reconstructed Sod House

Old Capstones laying around

They really do look like Toadstools

All sizes of Toadstools

Windmill view from the gravel road

Along the Union Pacific tracks

On Sunday we take a ride to the town of Chadron about 25 miles away.  There are several historic buildings with descriptions of their history and an early photograph posted on the front.  It’s interesting to see how some of them changed over the years, mostly for the worse.  The only thing that appeared busy was the Favorite Bar, we saw several people around it, I was tempted to go in to see what the attraction was.  We are both limping around slowly with knee issues today and feeling crappy, this is not good.

Chadron main street is colorful

Opera Block was a beauty

The 77 Saloon

The Favorite Bar did seem to be popular

Beautiful glazed finish

Shoe advertising sign, wish I could find $3.50 shoes these days !

Great architecture

The original Hotel Blaine where the Cowboy Race began

The race story is a classic, it was a 1,000 mile horse race
to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Chicago in 1893
with a $1,500 purse

Every day we have had high winds or a thunderstorm in late afternoon or at night, seems to be a regular thing here.  Weather is a much more of a concern when living in an RV especially in areas subject to high winds, tornadoes and hail.  

Next stop is Scottsbluff, Nebraska,
Twinkles and Slick

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