An Easy Highway Destination - The Great Platte River Road Archway.
Do you ever find yourself wanting to travel a few hundred miles in one day and wishing there were a cool place that’s easy on/off the highway to break up that long day?
Hi, I’m Michelle Fontaine, and if you’re traveling on Interstate 80 through Nebraska, I’ve got the perfect spot for you. The Great Platte River Road Archway monument is the first and only museum to straddle a US Interstate highway.
The Archway’s parking lot was designed with large pull-through spaces. Exit 275 is an easy off-ramp and, while the interactive museum is the highlight of this area and charges a reasonable ticket charge, there are many free amenities as well. There’s a 10-mile paved bike and hiking path. There’s a very nice picnicking pavilion, and many outside exhibits to enjoy. You can even fish and kayak in their pond.
The Archway tells the story of pioneers, innovators, and adventurers who built America. The Archway is the vision of Governor Morrison, and the initial plans for the monument were unveiled August 28, 1996. The engineers in charge of building the Archway were faced with the challenge of erecting a 1500-ton structure that would eventually be suspended above one of the most heavily traveled highways in the Midwest, and doing it in a way that would not impede the regular flow of traffic. How’s that for a challenge?
Let me show you a bit of the inside of this entertaining museum. This is a self-guided tour, so you can take as long as you want, and I spotted several children who seemed really quite absorbed in these narratives. The Archway’s exhibits include 21 life-sized characters that are actually cast human figures. In a process similar to making dental molds, entire figures of real people who match the exhibit designer’s vision were cast to provide a level of realism that can’t be achieved using mannequins. The figures are surrounded by murals depicting the Oregon Trail, the Lincoln Highway, and the night scene on the Transcontinental Railroad.
The Oregon Trail was an early American wagon route, roughly 2000 miles from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon Junction, Oregon. This arduous and dangerous passageway was used by hundreds of thousands of American pioneers. As the western migration scenes end, we’re welcomed onto the Lincoln Highway, known as the Main Street of America. As we move into this area, it feels
more like modern nostalgia for some, to our parents or our grandparents, and to the youngsters’ great-grandparents. I hate to age myself, but I can remember drive-in movies; can you?
The mural in the diner was painted by Kenneth B. Gore and provides a summary of the 180 years of history shown in the Archway. Many of the faces of the people in the mural are said to be those of craftsmen who worked on the Archway’s building and exhibits. While you’re in the diner, you’ll most certainly be drawn to the window, which shows the current traffic on Route 80 underneath you.
As we head down the escalator, there’s more history to be discovered, but we’ll let you discover that. There’s also a very well-stocked gift store, and I was able to find some pretty unique gifts for my grandkids. So as you can see, there’s enough entertainment and relaxation for an hour or half a day.