"The Platte River" Nebraska Off The Beaten Path Tip by traveldave

Nebraska Off The Beaten Path: 30 reviews and 42 photos


It is hard to believe, but this small, seemingly insignificant river formed one of the great westward routes which helped open the American West. The Platte River, consists of one wide, shallow river which separates into braided channels across a broad valley.

The Platte River is about 310 miles (499 kilometers) in length from where it is formed in western Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte River and the South Platte River to its confluence with the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska. The Platte River is one of the most significant rivers in the watershed of the Missouri River in that it drains most of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains of eastern Colorado and Wyoming. Because it drains one of the most arid regions in the country, the Platte River's flow is less than that of other rivers of comparable size. In fact, it often becomes dry during the summer months. Since the mid-twentieth century, the flow of the Platte River has further decreased substantially due to heavy withdrawals of water for irrigation. Early settlers, known for their sense of humor, claimed that the Platte River is "a mile wide and an inch deep" or that it is "too thick to drink, too thin to plow."

The Platte River was first explored by French fur trappers in the early 1800s. It was initially named the Nebraskier, from an Oto Indian word meaning "flat water." Later it became known as the Platte, the French word for "flat." The Platte River developed into an important means of transportation for fur trappers traveling into the Great Plains. Trade between the fur trappers and American Indians of the Oto and Pawnee tribes flourished along the river. And during America's westward expansion, the river provided a route for trails to the west, including the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail. Pioneers in their covered wagons, Pony Express riders, and the first transcontinental railroad followed the route of the Platte River into the heart of the American West.

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  • Updated Nov 30, 2010
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