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NEBRASKAland Articles

Wood-Sorrels

A Burst of Tartness On a hot summer day, I often pop a wood-sorrel’s clover-like leaf into my mouth to experience a burst of citrusy tartness. The practice is a long tradition, as for millennia Native Americans have enjoyed them. Three species of wood-sorrel are native to our state. The yellow-flowered yellow wood-sorrel (Oxalis stricta) and gray wood-sorrel (O. dillenii) are common, weedy species that bloom spring through fall in lawns, gardens, pastures and other disturbed habitats. The former is …

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Floating on the Breeze

A hot air balloon ride is a superb way to enjoy the scenery As Nebraskaland photographers, we do our best to attain the ultimate vantage of a given subject. In an effort to capture the attractive landscapes of western Nebraska, I have taken photos from atop many high buttes and from the cockpit of airplanes and helicopters. My new favorite, though, is the oldest of human-carrying flight technology: hot air balloon. I was not sure what to expect when my …

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The Book of Names

Plain and unremarkable, the black binder usually sits on a small coffee table in Fort Atkinson State Historical Park’s visitor center. But inside, it contains a remarkable picture of Fort Atkinson: Its pages list the names of everyone known to have lived at the fort, along with details about them that can reveal personalities, backgrounds and their futures. Susan Juza, Fort Atkinson’s long-time curator and a passionate lover of history, began the project as a relatively new employee at the …

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Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area

Serenity in southwestern Nebraska At the very southwestern corner of Nebraska in Dundy County lies a truly serene area that is sure to surprise those that venture there. Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area is a small 54-acre area, with a 50-acre lake fed by the cold spring waters of Rock Creek. Located 4 miles north and a mile east of Parks, Nebraska, this quaint SRA has primitive camping only at roughly 43 non-pad sites, one vault toilet and five …

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Dead Timber State Recreation Area

Complicated Past, but a Bright Future Despite its proximity to busy Highway 275 north of Scribner, Dead Timber State Recreation Area is hidden. Even its entrance, which faces a crop field on the other side, is unassuming and plain. The sign indicates that you’re in the right place, but you turn off the county road and wonder, “Is this it?” From your vehicle, you wouldn’t be able to see that to the southwest, just beyond the stretch of mowed grass, …

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Your Camera Doesn’t See Like You Do

Part 3 of 3 Have you ever been frustrated because some parts of a photo are way too bright while others are so dark you can’t see any details? Why does the image on the screen of your phone or camera look so much less vibrant and impressive than the gorgeous sunset in front of you? Simply put, your camera doesn’t see the world the way you do. The first two parts of this series covered the more mechanical aspects …

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Sketching Ash Hollow in 1851

Imagine sitting in a darkened theater watching a giant canvas on stage. The canvas is spooled at either end and advances like a giant scroll. Painted on the canvas are scenes of the Oregon Trail. A narrator describes the great journey that thousands of your fellow citizens are making. The giant scroll was called the Pantoscope, and it was big hit in Eastern theaters in the 1850s. Designed and promoted by entrepreneur J. Wesley Jones, it was based on sketches …

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Victoria Springs State Recreation Area

An Oasis at the Edge of the Sandhills Victoria Springs State Recreation opened in August 1925, an estimated 4,500 people attended the celebration. These days, around 6,000 people visit in an entire year. It’s a quiet little park, which is exactly why those who visit do so. Some folks will say the 60-acre park is in the middle of nowhere. But that isn’t true. It’s only 6 miles off the beaten path of Nebraska Highway 2 if you head west …

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Nebraska’s Fascinating Ferns

Spore-producing ferns are ancient plants, first appearing in fossil records about 360 million years ago, a time when amphibians were venturing out of the oceans to become the first land vertebrates. For tens of millions of years thereafter, the climate was extremely hot and humid and ferns flourished in the Earth’s expansive swamps, some towering to tree height. Although the flowering and seed-producing angiosperms, such as deciduous trees, grasses and wildflowers, eventually came to dominate the Earth’s flora, ferns continued …

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Backpacking the Pine Ridge Trail

An Adventure Story Through work and play, I have been no stranger to the Pine Ridge Trail. Portions of the route that transects the heart of public lands in the Pine Ridge escarpment between Chadron and Crawford have served me well as a way to access scenic landscapes and wildlife, or just enjoy a short hike or bike ride. Though I had been on many parts of the trail, which measures about 40 miles, I had never connected the dots …

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