10-Jun-2008 -- As I was in the area teaching a GIS and GPS institute for 4-H, county agricultural extension agents, researchers, and teachers, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to end Day 1 of the 2-day workshop. The workshop was held at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, Nebraska. Day 1 was filled with examining population, land use, agriculture, tornadoes, earthquakes, watersheds, climate, and more, all through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). After the participants had gone home, I finalized the curricular plan for the next day, which would include a bit of field data collection with GPS, and then mapping that data in a GIS. It was nearly 6:30pm when I left the college, but no matter--it was nearly the summer solstice, and I had a good two hours of daylight left.
So much daylight, in fact, that I could do something wonderful--not only visit the confluence, but do so by avoiding the Interstate Highway (80). It, together with the huge railroad switching yard, the largest in the country, makes North Platte a major transportation hub. Still, I thought it would be more pleasant and reminiscent of times gone by to drive along the old east-west road, US Highway 30. I did so, and passed some wonderful old ma-and-pa motels in northwestern North Platte, and then skirted the enormous rail yard before the area turned rural. The old Oregon Trail passed this way as well, and I thought of the wagons that might have rolled over this very stretch of grassland.
I turned south in Hershey, Nebraska, just about on the 101st Meridian. I drove over Interstate 80 on a bridge under repair, and continued due south along the county road, still just a few hundred meters west of "101". Once out of the Platte Valley, the road climbed, then jogged a bit to the east, and now it was less than 200 meters west of the 101st.
I had been to this confluence once before, en route to teach GIS at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. That brief trek was also one of the coldest ones I had experienced until visiting 41 North 100 West just one degree east of here one bitterly cold February morning. What a difference the seasons make in temperate climates! Instead of frozen ground and wind, I parked and had a very pleasant 15 minute walk through the field to the east of the road under blue skies, a beautiful sunset in the works, and light winds. Due to the lack of trees, it was no problem to zero out the GPS unit with a minimal confluence dance. This is such an easy confluence, and so close to a major highway, that it is truly amazing that only one other person besides me has logged a visit here.
The confluence lies on land sloping 10 degrees to the northwest, on a field that may have been planted in the past, but was now used for cattle grazing. I saw a few birds, but no animals or people. The wide open Great Plains vistas made for a clear view of the power plant at Sutherland, 27 km to the west-northwest. The closest residence was about 3/4 mile to the south, and only 2 other houses were available to the east. The wide open plains! I spent about 15 minutes at the confluence and another 10 at the road looking toward the west. I have been to 41 North numerous times in such places as Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and New Jersey. I do love the Great Plains and have compiled quite a few confluence visits here in Nebraska and other Plains states.
After departing the area, I drove due north and had a wonderful time at Gary's Super Foods in Hershey, Nebraska, picking up some food for dinner. I saved the receipt and later sent it to my friend Gary in Wisconsin. It was the only grocery store in town and had a pleasant front doorway area bathed in the setting sun. I then drove back to North Platte, this time along I-80, as I had some work to do before I could go to sleep, preparing tomorrow's workshop. This was a perfect capstone to the Mid Plains GPS/GIS Institute!