- 158 miles (254 km)
- 3 hours
The Gold Rush Byway denotes the discovery of gold in the Black Hillsof South Dakota in 1874. When the Army stopped enforcing the treatyreserving the Black Hills for the Sioux Indians, miners began to pourinto the gold regions. Until 1881, the 267-mile Sidney-Deadwood Trailcarried the bulk of the traffic, supplies, and gold to and from themining towns of Deadwood and Custer from Sidney. During 1878 to 1879alone, over 22 million pounds of freight moved along theSidney-Deadwood Trail. Gold shipments worth up to $200,000 each movedsouth from the Black Hills to Sidney and the railroad.
Part of the CANAM Highway (U.S. 385) that stretches from Mexico toSaskatchewan, Canada, the Gold Rush Byway follows one of the mosthistoric and scenic routes through America's heartland. The traveler isrewarded with a number of panoramic vistas-valleys, gently slopedhills, rolling plains, sand hills, buttes and pine-covered canyons.Along this byway, you'll see unique scenic, historical, recreational,cultural and archeological features. From beautiful lakes, lazilyflowing rivers, and national forests to bustling communities, artcenters and museums, this byway will entice you off the beaten track.
The Gold Rush Byway, extending from the Colorado border north to theSouth Dakota border, offers extensive Native American, military,westward expansion, and natural history.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
You'll know you've come to the end of the Sandhills Journey whenthe Sandhills stop. Once again the land will be flat and you willbe surrounded by farms. Alliance offers many recreational as wellas cultural opportunities. Alliance was a central point for theBurlington Santa Fe Powder River Basin coal train operations,giving Alliance the distinction of being the "Coal Capital ofNebraska." The area was also a key place for homesteaders becausethe land office was located here. These homesteaders braved theelements to settle the land that is now known as the SandhillsJourney.
Alliance offers visitors many opportunities to relax and rest upfrom the journey through the Sandhills. Laing Lake gives kids thechance to feed the ducks, the opportunity to go walking or joggingalong the nature trail, or the chance to go fishing from afootbridge. Box Butte Reservoir is located 9 miles north ofHemingford on Highway 385 and is a wonderful spot to go fishing,boating, or swimming. In the summer months, Alliance is also alivewith events such as Heritage Days during the second week of Julyand Iron Rail Days in the early fall. Golfing, hunting, tenniscourts, and swimming pools are also available.
One of the most unique attractions along the Sandhills Journeyis Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge built out of cars. The heelstone, or in this case, a 1962 Cadillac, was raised using the samemethods of the ancient people who raised Stonehenge. If moretraditional arts and historical stops are what you are looking for,Alliance is home to the Carnegie Arts Center. There are exhibits ofNebraskan artists, as well as those from surrounding states.Literary and performing arts, shows, workshops, classes andprograms are also held here throughout the year. The Knight Museumof High Plains Heritage showcases military memorabilia from the1870's, railroad exhibits, turn-of-the-century kitchen, a parlor ofthe 1880-1900's, and Oglala and Lakota artifacts.
Cabela's is the "World's Foremost Outfitter" and visitors canwander through 75,000 square feet to find fishing, hunting, andoutdoor gear. In addition to this, there are over 500 wildlifereplicas from around the world. There is an 8,000-gallon aquariumfilled with fish from Nebraska, and the life-sized bronze sculptureentitled "The Royal Challenge" displays two elk battling eachother.
Chadron State Park (NE)
Chadron State Park is 974 acres set among the beauty of the PineRidge. The Pine Ridge Division of the National Forest surrounds thepark. Dominating the scene are the ponderosa pines that have takento their home here in the generally dry climate. Because thealtitude reaches 5,000 feet in some places, visitors can get abreak from warm summer days. There are hiking trails that you canexplore on foot, bike, or horse. Both modern and primitivecampsites are available. In addition to this, there are cabinaccommodations in the park. Swimming, trout fishing, jeep rides,crafts, and old-time fur trader activities add to the variety ofevents at the park. There are also picnic facilities thataccommodate a nice, relaxing break from the hectic everydaylife.
Chimney Rock National Historic Site (NE)
"Towering to the heavens" is how one pioneer described Chimney Rock, the most recognized landmark along the Oregon Trail. Today an interpretive center operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society pays tribute to those who traveled the trails and features original maps made from Captain John C. Fremont's 1842-43 exploration of the Oregon Trail. This feature played a significant role in the westward migration because of its prominence as a landmark for those traveling west.
Court House and Jail Rocks (NE)
These two impressive rocks are unusual geological formations,which became landmarks along the Oregon and Mormon Trails. Thepioneers had many different names for these rock formations, andthey would often go out of their way to see these rocks. Theserocks are large, impressive rock formations that have been erodedand shaped by time and the elements. They are composed mainly ofBrule clay and Gering sandstone. These rocks are the easternmostextension of the Rocky Mountains, which Native Americans used forcamping and sending smoke signals.
Fort Robinson State Park (NE)
Fort Robinson State Park is 22,000 acres of fun. History fromall eras combine with a variety of recreational activities to makethis one Nebraska's largest and most historic state park. Like manyof the forts in this area of the state, Fort Robinson wasestablished as a military post as an Indian Agency protective postin 1874. The fort remained active until 1948. During this time, thefort has seen a wide range of historical events. The fort guardedthe Red Cloud Agency from 1874-1877. Crazy Horse, the victor in theBattle of the Little Big Horn, was bayoneted at Fort Robinsonshortly after he had been arrested and taken there as a prisoner.In 1890s the Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at the fort. It alsohoused WWII German POW's from 1943-1946. Beginning in the fall of1942, K-9 Corps reception and training center was established atthe fort where some 14,000 dogs were trained for the army, navy,coast guard, and civilian agencies.
Today there are many activities that you can enjoy. Horsebackriding or hiking in the Pine Ridge area is a great look at theNebraska panhandle outdoors. Jeep rides, stagecoach rides, and aride on the Tour Train will all give you a feel for the park. Theponds throughout the park offer opportunities to go fishing.Historic buildings and museums through the park give visitors aglimpse into the colorful history of the area and park.
Fort Sidney Museum and Post Commander's Home (NE)
In 1867, building the Union Pacific railroad was dangerous work,even under the best of circumstances. Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahowar parties made the arduous work even more dangerous. Fort Sidneywas the military's response to these attacks. It was built to giveprotection to engineers and railroad crews working on thetranscontinental Union Pacific railroad. Many of the troopsstationed there took part in the Battle of Wounded Knee. It laterbecame a major jumping-off point during the Black Hills gold rushwith freight heading north to the gold mines, and millions ofdollars worth of gold heading south. Today, you can enter theliving quarters of the Fort's Officers and Post Commander.
Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed (NE)
Over 10,000 years ago, hundreds of bison were killedmysteriously at this ancient spring. Ongoing excavations may beviewed by the public when they are in session, and informationprovided helps visitors understand what happened. No one knowsexactly what killed the 600 bison, but stone artifacts from theAlberta culture have been found at the site. The Alberta culturelived 8,000-10,000 years ago and the bison was their main way ofsurvival. Other theories exist about what killed the bison. Youmight picture hundreds of bison being driven over a cliff, however,there is only a gentle rise near the site. Others have proposedthat the bison may have been killed by suffocation in a prairiefire while huddled for protection or they may have been killed bylightning.
Mormon Pioneer Trail (NE)
The Mormon Pioneer Trail extended from Nauvoo, Illinois to SaltLake City, Utah. In 1846 members of the Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo and they began thetrek West to land where they would be able to practice theirreligion in peace. They were forced to stay the winter near Omaha,Nebraska at Winter Quarters, where they endured many hardshipsbecause of the weather, a large body of people, and lack ofexperience. In April 1947 the President of the Church, BrighamYoung, established an advance party to begin the journey to theRocky Mountains. With the favorable beginning, Young organized thegroup of 148 people and they were able to arrive in the Salt LakeValley in July 1847. This advance party immediately planted cropsand began laying out the new city. Over the next 20 years, 70,000Mormons would travel the route to establish a new home in Utah. TheMormon Pioneer Trail followed the north side of the Platte Riverand eventually joined the Oregon Trail at Fort Laramie,Wyoming.
Mud Springs Pony Express Station (NE)
The Pony Express lasted from 1860-1861, and the Mud Springs homestation in Bridgeport served to refresh riders. When the PonyExpress ceased operation, the station was used as a stage stopalong the Sidney-Deadwood Trail, and later as a telegraph stationfor the first transcontinental telegraph line. In 1865, a group of19 men held off an Indian attack and were then rescued by cavalrytroops from Fort Laramie and Fort Mitchell. Not much remains ofthis station, and a monument describing the importance of the areastands there today. A picnic area on the site allows visitors achance to enjoy the area.