22-Mar-2008 – I, Doug Savery, had some free time in the afternoon and thought it was a great opportunity to attempt my first confluence visit. I elected to attempt 42°N 97°W. This confluence is located in Cumming County Nebraska USA near the county boundary with Stanton County. 42°N 97°W is located ESE of the village of Pilger. I approached the site from the south and east via highways US 77 and US 275. I traveled through rolling hills typical of agricultural land in eastern Nebraska and noted the crop land gradually giving way to increasing numbers of cattle feedlots. There was a lot of water standing in flat fields and road ditches and patches of snow remained in shaded areas. As I traveled west on highway US 275 from the intersection with Hwy 51, I proceeded about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) and turned south on 2085 Road and proceeded south 0.6 miles (0.96 km) to S Road and then turned west proceeding about 0.5 mile (0.80 km) to a dirt road that was marked only with a sign indicating it was the entrance to Black Island Wildlife Management Area. The road went south about 0.6 miles (0.96 km) ending in a parking area. The hour was about 4:00 PM central daylight time.
Two mowed paths were noted leading into tall grass. This did not appear to be entirely native prairie and may have been pasture previously. However, there was shoulder-high switchgrass still sporting last years empty seed heads. This grass is one of the better known grasses of the tall grass prairie regions of the American plains. It grows particularly well in moist locations, such as the plain of the Elkhorn River where this confluence lies. Switchgrass makes excellent hay for cattle feed and is of increasing economic interest in Nebraska as a possible substitute for corn in the state’s rapidly developing ethanol industry. I chose the path that went southeast rather than east toward the confluence and was gratified with the result. I could see the old windmill reported by previous visitors. There were tracks of two horses and some deer tracks in the path, but I did not see any animals during the hike. I had seen numerous hawks and several other birds, but none at sufficiently close range to identify. The day was quite dark with heavy cloud cover at 1700’, the temperature was 34° F and the wind was NNW at 23 miles per hour per Internet weather records of conditions at Pilger during the time of my visit. I had trekked less than 400 yards (366 m) when the path turned east and paralleled the beautiful Elkhorn River. Due to the weather and season I did not make photographs of the river this day. This river is one of a system of particularly scenic prairie rivers that wind through Nebraska and drain into the Platte River. The confluence of the Elkhorn and Platte rivers, lies 70 miles (112.6 km) to the southeast of 42°N 97° W. The view of the River with its clear, shallow water added interest to an otherwise rather dreary day.
As I approached the confluence site, I could see the marshy area described by previous visitors. The last two years had been wet and this combined with the spring thaw had rendered the marsh impassible. See the insightful comments regarding the marsh in the narrative of Fleming and Millar’s visit of 07-Mar-2006. The day was blustery, the hour was late, and sleet was beginning to fall with pen point sized granules bouncing off the face of the GPS receiver. The longitude reading was easily zeroed out on 97°W, but it was obvious that I would not be able to zero out on 42°N as the confluence point was still about 65 M (212 feet;197 feet + 15 feet GPS accuracy) to the north in front of me and nearly all of that covered with water. The exact confluence site lies in the trees across the marsh in the photo view to the north. I marked a waypoint at my closest approach N 41° 59.968’ W097° 00.001’, but had to withdraw a bit from the bank of the marsh for the photograph of the GPS. The photos of the four cardinal points were made from here as well. Facing a 2-1/2 hour drive home, I had insufficient time to explore other approaches to the confluence. Satisfied that I had gotten within the 100 meter DCP requirement for a successful visit, I made the required photographs noted above and returned to my vehicle for the trip home.