Homer's Travels: Hiking Nebraska: Platte River State Park

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hiking Nebraska: Platte River State Park

Note: At the end of the last hiking post I said I would next be hiking in Iowa in a Mormon themed park.  Well, the park I was going to is closed due to tornado damage suffered this spring and won't be reopening until next spring.  Plans change.

With the closure of my selected hike, I scrambled around Monday looking for an alternative and eventually settled for the nearby Platte River State Park.  The Platte River was named by a French explorer who named the river the 'Platte' - French for 'Flat'.  The state was later named after the river, namely the Oto tribe's word for the river - Nebraska.

The park is about 40 minutes away from where I live.  On Tuesday I stopped at park headquarters to pay the fee and get a map.  I already had a hike description that I'd found on the internets.  The hike would consist of two loops, both starting from Walter Scott Jr. Lodge.  Before starting I climbed to the top of the observation tower near the lodge.  The tower, some 85 feet tall, gives you a panoramic view of the area including the Platte River, the nearby town of Louisville, and the surrounding farmland.

After taking in the sights from the tower, I headed north from the lodge and started on the western loop.  Even though the loop is a relatively short 1 mile, it can be hard to navigate because of all the unmarked trails - mostly use trails - that spur off the main trails.  This loop weaved in and out of civilization switching from cabin and camping areas and thick forests.

I liked the forest parts and was pleasantly surprised when I heard something I hadn't heard in a while - a waterfall.  Not Niagara Falls but nice and relaxing never the less.  The falls were the best part of this short loop in my opinion.

I left the falls and took a spur up a hill.  Frankly the spur looked more like a trail at the bottom of the hill than at the top.  The trail degenerated to a path through tall dew covered grass weaving through evergreen trees.  By the time the trail came out to a picnic area, my pants were soaked.  I sat on a swing and rested and let my pants dry in the sun while I got my bearings again.

The loop returned to the lodge where I caught the eastern trail heading for the second loop.  This trail takes you east following the river past cabins before dropping down a steep hill to the equestrian trails.  This trail continues east over Decker Creek and up a wide dirt road.  That is, a dirt road when it hasn't rained.   The day before had been a rainy day and the road was slick with slimy mud.  Getting up the hill was almost as hard as going down the hill.  I did manage to make it without a fall.

I left the road and took a biking/hiking trail that twisted and turned and twisted again up and down the hills through dense forest.  I usually have a good sense of direction but the twisting trail really turned me around.  I had a geocache stored in my GPS that was supposed to be on the trail.  I never got any closer than 200 feet from it.  I was so confused by the landscape that, before I knew it, I was heading away from the cache.  I decided not to backtrack since I would probably be back someday and I'll get it then.

The trail headed back up and emerged in a pasture where I picked up the muddy road again and headed back to the lodge.

The hike was good enough.  I saw deer, insects, mosses, lichen, and other animals and growths.  The forest always reminds me of the woods I played in as a child.  I spent some time trying to remember what made up a lichen (fungus and algae usually).   It was a little short at 3.79 miles with about 700 feet of elevation change.  I was a little disappointed that the trails never went to the shore of the Platte River.  The train tracks run along the river and fences keep the trail away from the tracks and the river.  During the three hours that I was on the trail three trains went by on the tracks.  I did take some pictures.

I left the park and went to nearby Louisville to get me some grub.  I was disappointed once again when I didn't find a cafe.  I ended up eating at a Subway.  I should have waited.  On the way home I drove though Springfield and passed Hazy's Bar and Grill.  Now I know where I'll eat the next time I come through here.


  1. You missed out on a perfect pants ripping opportunity by being careful in the mud...

  2. Oh man, I love Platte River State Park! Thanks for the pics, they brought back good memories!

  3. JaG: LOL! I only have one more pair of hiking pants. I can't afford to tear them out ... yet :-)

    Dobegil: Your welcome. It is a nice park.

  4. Did this French explorer misspell "platte" on purpose? Platte does indeed mean flat, but with one single "t" instead of two.

  5. Gany: Since I don't know French, I am not sure. It's probably some bastardization of the word. We Americans like to mess with other language's words.

  6. Oh, man, I so want to climb that tower...

  7. GH: It was pretty cool up there. You could see for miles. Today it would be a little too windy - 20 - 30 MPH winds today.