Great Platte River Road Archway Monument

This is not a great picture, but I took it to tell you about this great place: this great place with a long and confusing name... The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. It is located in Kearney, Nebraska which is not necessarily somewhere you'll be stopping by anytime soon, but I should mention that it, the museum itself, stretches right over the top of Interstate 80, so if you are headed across the country east or west, you might, in fact, be passing through, literally.

The Archway, as I'll call it for the sake of simplicity, is a fairly new attraction and it utilizes a fascinating combination of history and technology to bring to life the heritage of that stretch of road where all of the major pioneer trails converged making the area the gateway to westward expansion. The Oregon, Mormon, California, Pony Express and other pioneer trails met along the Platte River making nearby Fort Kearney the last stop before travelers were truly forging ahead on their own.

It is hard to describe the archway experience, but it starts with a ride up an escalator into a three dimensional scene that ascends into a gigantic framed painting that gradually swoops into action as we move into it, because it is actually a huge video screen. At the top, we are transported into a western prairie diorama complete with a statue of on an old timer sitting on a barrel, until the codger comes to life, stands up and starts talking to us about his experiences in the old fort, seeing folks out on the trail. At that point, we put on the provided headphones which are tuned into radio frequencies in each room. Audio narratives and environmental sounds bring each scene to life, choreographed with changing lighting and videos in the exhibit, with live actors interspersed throughout. As I said, a bit hard to explain, but the museum covers the history of the area and its significance to our nation, from the pioneer era to the present. It was fascinating, exhilarating, and a wonderful stop on our trip west... Highly recommended.

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