- 238 miles (383 km)
- Approximately 4 hours.
The Heritage Highway extends from the wooded and hilly area ofthe Missouri River to the prairie lakes region of south-centralNebraska. The rewards for those who take the road less traveled (orin this case, U.S. Highway 136) are varied and wonderful.
Put yourself in the place of early discoverers and pioneers asthey crossed the Missouri River and ventured forth through theforests and onto the plains. Museums along the byway follow thearea's first inhabitants, the Native American tribes and theprogression of European settlers. Historic main streets bordermodern farms. Heritage, culture, arts and crafts are celebrated atvarious fairs, festivals, and theatrical presentations.
Travel through the prairie land Willa Cather depicted in hermany novels of life on the Nebraska plains. Visit the CatherHistorical Center, art gallery, or bookstore. Follow the OregonTrail, see a Pony Express station, or view the location ofAmerica's first homestead. This claim was filed under the HomesteadAct of 1862 that brought millions of settlers westward.
Tour restored Victorian homes, enjoy a quiet and relaxing trailride, join a canoe race down the Republican River, fish, swim, skior boat at the Harlan County Reservoir. Or simply sit andappreciate miles of gently waving grass and fertile prairies.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Beatrice is in the center of historic Gage County where thepioneer spirit is still strong. The Homestead National Monument ofAmerica is only about 4.5 miles west on Highway 4. In addition tothis, there is an Oregon Trail marker located 1¾ miles westof Lanham which commemorates the site where 300,000 pioneerscrossed into Nebraska from Kansas on their trek west. Experiencethe feel of open prairie space that the pioneers would haveexperienced.
Historic buildings also are a main attraction to the area. TheGage County Museum is on the National Register of Historical Placesand is housed in the Burlington Railroad Depot which was built in1906. This museum documents the history of the county with WWIIdisplays, a medical wing, the story of Robert Taylor, the actor whogrew up in the area, and many other displays. Also of historicalsignificance, the Filley Stone Barn is a historic three-storylimestone barn which was built in 1874. Many events are held at theBarn, reminding visitors of the early settlers around Beatrice.
There are many recreational opportunities for visitors inBeatrice and the surrounding area. There is a water park as well asgolfing in Beatrice. Rockford Lake State Recreation Area is located6 miles east of Beatrice and offers the traveler a perfect getawayfor fishing, camping, picnicking, and boating. Located 15 milessouth and 3 miles east near Odell is Big Indian Recreation Areawhere boating, fishing, camping, and hiking are also available.
Small town charm is the first thing that greets you as you begins your journey along the Heritage Highway. This small town offers you many opportunities to experience a slower pace of life as you shop in small town antique shops and specialty stores along the historic shop district. From flea markets to festive concerts, Brownville offers something for everyone. The Brownville Village Theatre stages different plays throughout the summer seasons. For more information on the Brownville Village Theatre, phone 402-825-4121.
Nearby Brownville State Recreation Area is a direct access to the Missouri River for boating, as well as camping facilities. The Spirit of Brownville Riverboat offers cruises along the Missouri River. Also from the Brownville State Recreation Area, biking and hiking are plentiful along the Steamboat Trace trail.
Brownville State Recreation Area and Surrounding Area (NE)
Brownville State Recreation Area is located outside of thevillage of Brownville, along the banks of the scenic MissouriRiver. The area is open for hiking, camping, fishing, picnicing,and boating. You can park in the area to access the Steamboat TraceHiking and Biking Trail, which is an old railroad line that hasbeen converted to a pedestrian use trail. The Steamboat TraceHiking and Biking Trail consists of 21 miles (34 km) of trails thatwind through limestone bluffs, beautiful Nebraska scenery, and thebanks of the Missouri River.
Departing from Brownville State Recreation area is thepaddlewheeler, Spirit of Brownville. This cruise is a once in alifetime chance to experience the old-time charm of the MissouriRiver while enjoying the modern advantages of a refreshment bar,restrooms, and facilities for dining and dancing. Also located inthe park is the Captain Meriwether Lewis Museum of Missouri RiverHistory. A restored side-wheeler dredge used on the Missouri is nowon display at Brownville.
Harlan County Lake (NE)
Harlan County Lake is the second largest lake in Nebraska and is known for its fishing, especially walleye fishing. The area has many places to camp, and the lake provides excellent boating and water skiing opportunities. The lake has a 75-mile shoreline so there are plenty of campgrounds and opportunities to access the lake. Hunting, with a Nebraska permit, is also a favorite activityin the area. The Harlan County Dam is located at the Republican City end of the lake, and the city of Alma is located at the west end of the lake. The scenic Republican River is nearby for visitors to enjoy by going tubing or enjoying the scenery. In nearby Alma, hiking and biking trails are also available.
Along with the many recreational activities of the area, there are also other opportunities to enjoy this area along the Heritage Highway. The Central Nebraska's Regional Repertory Theatre located in Republican City, features the Republican City Players in historic melodramas and contemporary plays portraying life in the Midwest. The local towns of Alma, Oxford, and Orleans provide many special events and attractions, such as Oxford Turkey Days,Orleans' Applefest, and the good old-fashioned 4th of Julycelebration in Alma. Oxford Turkey Days for 2007 will be held on June 7, 8, 9, and 10.
Homestead National Monument of America (NE)
The Homestead National Monument of America is located four milesNE of Beatrice on Highway 4. This monument celebrates the HomesteadAct of 1862 signed by Abraham Lincoln which enabled citizens toclaim 160 acres of land, provided that they build a dwelling andgrow crops. The land then belonged to the settler, provided thatthey could weather five years on the land. This act began what isknown as the Homesteading Era (1862 - 1936). The Act remainedeffective into the mid 1980's, although most homesteading tookplace before 1940. The monument stands as a memorial to thosehomesteaders who left their mark on the Nebraska land and Americanhistory.
The area that the Homestead National Monument now rests on isthe original 160-acres of land claimed by Daniel Freeman, a Unionscout. He is considered one of the first to claim land under theHomestead Act because he convinced a Brownville land agent to lethim sign up shortly after midnight on the first day the act wasopened, January 1, 1863.
On the site is a homestead cabin typical to the southeasternpart of Nebraska, a restored frontier school, and more than 100acres of tallgrass praire and other native plants and flowers. Avisitor center near the monument entrance features displays andvideotape programs. Hiking and cross-country skiing arepermitted.
Four miles west of Beatrice, NE
Indian Cave State Park (NE)
The natural features of the Indian Cave State Park are a uniqueaddition to the Heritage Highway. A sandstone cave within the parkfeatures Indian petroglyphs, however the culture and date of thefeatures still remains a mystery. Additionally, the park isbordered on the east by the Missouri River, and there are manyopportunities to go camping, hiking, horseback riding, backpacking,and fishing in the area. Located 15 miles south of Brownville, thisis a great opportunity for travelers of the Heritage Highway toexperience the great outdoors.
Visitors can also see a reconstructed 19th century riversettlement, St. Deroin. Don't be fooled by the "Saint," however.Many people think that the saint was added later on in thesettlement's history to attract people to the area. And JosephDeroin was no saint according to local history. Legends are aliveat the Indian Cave State Park, and it is said that after A. J.Ritter lost his arm in a fishing accident it was buried by theriver. After Ritter died, he was buried in the local cemetery, butlocals still claim that sometimes Ritter rises from the grave tolook for his lost arm.
Red Cloud (NE)
The historic town of Red Cloud is named after the Indian Chiefwho was the leader of the Sioux Indians. He is known for hisstatesmanship in dealing with the United States government andworking for the needs of his people. Legend has it that hisdaughter, Blue Cloud, is buried in a hill overlooking theRepublican River Valley. The town also has a rich heritage ofpioneering, which has been immortalized by Willa Cather in herwriting.
Red Cloud is the childhood home of the Pulitzer Prize winningauthor, Willia Cather. The immense Nebraska prairie and the town ofRed Cloud was inspiration for her works. Willia Cather's influenceis so strong in the area that the Nebraska State Legislatureofficially proclaimed the western half of Webster County as“Catherland” in 1965.
There are many other things to do and see while in Red Cloud andthe area is full of historic sites. The Starke Round Barn, built in1902-3, located near Red Cloud is the largest barn of its type inNebraska and one of the largest in the state. It measures 130 feetin diameter and has three levels. The bottom is for animals, thesecond for machinery, and the third, which is a loft, is forhay.
There are also recreational opportunities along the RepublicanRiver. Visitors can go fishing, canoeing, camping, or hunting. Thebeauty of the area is an important part of the heritage of thepeople in the area.
Republican River (NE)
The Republican River is an important aspect of the HeritageHighway from Superior to Edison. There are many recreationalopportunities, such as swimming and fishing, and one of the mostpopular is to go tubing down the river. The river got its name fromthe nickname for the Pawnees, as a historical marker about 150miles down river in Kansas says. "Long before white men settledhere the region was the home of the Pawnee Indians. The Frenchtraders in the late 1700s named those along the river theRepublican Pawnees..." This influenced towns in both Kansas andNebraska.
Republican City in Nebraska takes it name from this scenic riveras it follows the Heritage Highway. In addition to the manyrecreational opportunities along the Republican River, the HarlanCounty Lake is an important part of the river and provides visitorswith many opportunities to fish, camp, and swim. Friendly Nebraskatowns follow the river and visitors will be greeted by neighborlyfolks.
Rock Creek Station State Historical Park (NE)
This state historical park is run by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, but not long ago this area was a stop for the Pony Express and a road ranch that catered to pioneers trekking west on the Oregon Trail and freight lines. However, it is a bloody encounter of the Old West that ensured this station's place in history.
In 1861, "Wild Bill" Hickok was hired by David NcCanles as a stable hand. Horace Wellman was going to buy the station from McCanles, and as McCanles approached Wellman one day about the payments, Hickok killed him for reasons that are not entirely clear. This event was published and Hickok became enshrined as a legend.
The Rock Creek Station is the visitor's gateway to the past, as legend mixes with fact. This area speaks of the pioneer history of the area, as deep ruts from wagons on the Oregon Trail are visible. California-bound travelers on the Oregon Trail passed through this area, where an interpretive center now exists. The area is a place for families to picnic, camp, and hike while enjoying the feel of the past.
Superior is considered the Victorian Capitol of Nebraska. Thereare many historic and unique Victorian homes in Superior which givethe town a strong sense of heritage. From festivals tosightseeings, visitors can experience this unique town along theHeritage Highway.
Lady Vestey, formerly Evelyn Brodstone, is Superior's mostfamous former resident. Evelyn Brodstone became Lady Vestey whenshe married Lord William Vestey of England. The Lady VesteyVictorian Festival honors Lady Vestey and has been chosen as one ofthe Top Ten Festivals in the nation. It has also been honored asNebraska's Outstanding Event by the Nebraska Department of Tourism.The event concentrates on the Victorian heritage of the communityas citizens dress in Victorian clothing and tour Victorian homes. Aparade and other events make this festival a family affair.
In addition to the historical feel of Superior, there are alsorecreational opportunities around Superior along the RepublicanRiver 1 mile south of town where visitors can enjoy the wildlife,canoeing, or tubing on the Republican River. At Lovewell Lake StatePark, 7 miles south of Superior in Kansas, visitors can enjoyfishing, boating, camping, and picnicking.