Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hiking Nebraska: Lied Platte River Bridge And Schramm Park

Looking back at all my hikes There are two things that I like to see.  The first is water.  There is nothing better that a walk along a burbling brook or an undulating ocean.  The other thing I like on hikes are bridges. Not sure where my fascination with bridges came from but it may be related to my like of water since ... well ... bridges usually are connected with water.  My latest hike, last Tuesday, took be along a couple trails that featured both bridges and water.  I was a very happy hiker.

Lied Platte River Bridge seen from the Platte River State Park observation tower.
I decided to check out the Lied Platte River Bridge after seeing it from the Platte River State Park observation tower the week before.  I drove out to the small town of South Bend, NE and parked at the designated bridge parking area.  This turned out to be at a distance from the bridge itself - 0.69 miles.  The path was shaded and passed by a few horses and mulberry trees where I stopped to partake of a berry or three. 

The bridge is a converted Rock Island railroad bridge and stretches 1,714 ft (522.4 m) across the Platte River.  The Platte is a wide, shallow, slow moving river full of exposed sandbars and old sun bleached trees.  When I think of rivers I think of rivers like the Platte.  In central Nebraska the Platte attracts Sandhill Cranes during their migration.  When I watch the slow waters I get this urge to get a raft, kayak, or canoe and drift down this laid back river (I've never kayaked or canoed in my life but it looks so tempting).

The wide and shallow Platte River from the shore.
I walked across the bridge and watched the swifts zooming around the bridge, several turkey buzzards picking on something on a sandbar, and a sole heron or egret wading in the river.  At the other end the trail turns and follows the river a short distance until it reaches another parking lot (approximately 1.5 miles from parking lot to parking lot).

At this point I had a couple of options.  I could turn right and head towards the town of Louisville where another trail runs along NE-50.  There is a move to connect the MoPac East trail from Lincoln, via the Lied Platte River Bridge, through this Louisville Trail and connecting to Omaha trails.  This would allow you to ride from Lincoln to Omaha - approximately 50 miles (80.5 km).

Since my self imposed limit of 12-14 miles would not even get me half way to Louisville, I decided to turn left instead and follow NE-31, following the Platte River, a couple miles to Schramm Park State Recreational Area.  The road offers views of the river the entire way to the park but there is only a narrow shoulder to walk on so you have to watch for oncoming traffic.

I'd never been to Schramm Park.  It's a nice little park with picnic areas, an aquarium (which I didn't go to), and fish ponds.  This park was originally the oldest fish hatchery in Nebraska.  I walked around the ponds which are still full of fish.

The park has three miles of hiking trails that are divided into two mile and a half trails.  If you combine the loops, and skip a small part of the trail #1, you end up with a two mile loop that takes you through wooded hills and over small bridges including a really cool suspension bridge - something you rarely see on a trail.

Schramm Park Suspension Bridge.
After I completed the loop I returned to the car the way I came.  My total distance was 8.09 miles (13 km) with around 865 ft (263.6 m) of elevation - typical low Nebraska elevation.  Most of the elevation was on the trails in the park.  With the Platte river bridge, the suspension bridge, and the Platte River itself, it was a very satisfying hike on a warm summer's day.  These and other pictures can be found here.

[Click on Map To See A Larger Version]

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