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During a September journey following the Oregon Trail, we made a slight detour in southeast Nebraska to visit Homestead National Monument of America. We had toured this unit of the National Park Service on two previous occasions. Each visit was educational and the national monument wasn’t far off the path of our drive from Topeka, Kansas, to Kearney, Nebraska.

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WHEN: Sandhill Cranes begin arriving in late February with the population peaking in mid- to late March. Birds begin departing in late March or early April. Reservations for lodging and crane tours should be made well in advance. It is wise to book two to three nights in the event you run into some bad weather.

The Platte River Valley served as a pathway for several hundred thousand pioneers who made the long trek west during the mid-19th century in search of a new life.