North Platte

“Emerging from Ash Hollow, the trains rolled on-ever west-along the south bank of the North Platte. “Its width is not so great [as the Platte],” Edwin Bryant observed, “but still it is a wide stream, with shallow and turbid water, the flavor of which is, to me, excessively disagreeable.” The North Platte may taste bad, but in June its valley is dazzling. The full glory of spring paves the land with a carpet of lush grass and wildflowers. The bulbous yellow-white flowers of blooming yuccas pepper the landscape. Thunderstorms regularly scrub the air clean, leaving it cool and pungent with the smell of wet grass and sagebrush. Much of the valley today is a patchwork of irrigated fields and fenced cattle ranges. Up on the valley flanks, though, far from the river and on land too steep to irrigate, you can still sense the wild high plains-the vanished buffalo grasslands.”