09-Dec-2005 -- As I had spent the past few days teaching a GIS and GPS workshop for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, a confluence visit seemed like an excellent way to end the trip. I had left 42 North 103 West at 1pm, and by 2:30pm, was nearing 42 North 104 West.
I left US Highway 26 at Morrill, driving north along a section line road to the Sioux-Scotts Bluff County line. Turning left along South A Road, I passed fields of corn and other crops, looking golden in the afternoon sun. Most of the fields, however, were pasture for grazing. I stopped before reaching the railroad overpass, about 250 meters northwest of the confluence. I gathered a few supplies and set off to the southeast across a field. Adjacent to the road was a former homesite which, like many others in this area, had been abandoned with farm consolidation. A number of people had chosen to dump refrigerators and other large objects here, giving the area a rather forlorn air. The previous few days while I had been teaching had been bitterly cold, down to -19 F (-28 C), and I was therefore a bit overdressed today as the temperature neared 35 F (2 C). A bit of patchy snow still lay on the ground after the snowstorms earlier this week. I climbed the slope toward the railroad embankment and reached the confluence at 2:40pm local time.
Sioux County occupies a vast area of northwest Nebraska. It includes 2,067 square miles (5,353 square kilometers) yet was estimated in 2002 to contain only 1,549 people. Harrison, its county seat, is home to only 291 people. Farming, ranching, and recreation are the main activities here, with Toadstool Geologic Park, the Oglala National Grassland, and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument part of the beauty of the area. The main service towns for the people living near the confluence site are Torrington, Wyoming, just across the border to the west, and Scottsbluff, Nebraska to the southeast.
The confluence lies in a field that has been used in the past for cattle grazing, and perhaps for crops long before that. It slopes 10 degrees to the north. I saw a few birds, but no animals except for cattle in the distance. The skies were clear, and not surprisingly in these wide open spaces, it was moderately windy. When I first reached the confluence, a train was passing by, but it was moving so fast that I only caught the back end of it on film. However, less than 10 minutes later, another long coal train passed by, coming in from Wyoming. I spent 15 minutes at the confluence, including a hike to the railroad track. From the confluence, the longest vista is to the bluffs at Scottsbluff, Nebraska, more than 30 kilometers to the southeast. I was reluctant to leave, knowing that would be my last confluence of 2005.
I believe this is my 10th confluence in Nebraska, which probably surpasses even my own state of Colorado. I had stood on 42 degrees north latitude several times before, in Nebraska, Illinois, and Wyoming, and I had previously stood on 104 west twice in Colorado. 104 West was marked as the western border of Nebraska during the 1800s. When one considers that 104 West is only 3 kilometers to the west of here, one has to give those original surveyors credit for being so close, considering that they had no GPS receivers. Going back to the vehicle, I walked along the embankment so that I could see a bit of different terrain. Back at the vehicle, I drove west on the county road to Henry, Nebraska, where I found a building of interest in terms of cultural geography. I then entered Wyoming and continued on to Colorado. A perfect day for two confluence visits!