3060 E. 1st St.
Kearney Nebraska 68847United States
This one-of-a-kind museum of pioneer history sits on a huge bridge over Interstate-80.
Driving across Nebraska on I-80, you simply cannot miss The Great Platte River Road Archway. Crossing all four lanes of the interstate east of Kearney, the museum resembles an immense covered bridge. Inside, two stories of exhibition space celebrate 150 years of the Great Platte River Road, a major transportation route throughout America's history.The experience begins as you are greeted by the resident mountain man at the door. Directly inside there are restrooms, a large cafe and a gift shop, giving you a chance to rest and refuel and buy tickets for the archway experience. The museum begins when you don a set of headphones and step onto the escalator (they make sure you know it's the second tallest in Nebraska). The displays unfold chronologically, and as you walk through the museum, the narration coming through the speakers changes. (The whole thing is surprisingly cool and interactive, given that it's located in a highway bridge!) Beginning with the days of the pioneers and the rough trek west, you finish with the heyday of the automobile and a look at drive-ins and diners. Life-size figures are startlingly realistic, and visual effects throughout add to the experience.Outside, across from the archway, members of the Pawnee and Arikara tribes have erected an authentic earth lodge. This large structure was the traditional housing for these tribes in generations past. At one time, you could find these lodges throughout south-central Nebraska along the Platte River. From the outside, the building resembles a cone of earth. Inside, the essential design of the lodge becomes clear. Large logs provide the main support. Planks and long poles give the building its shape. Even smaller materials were used as a mat to keep the dirt from trickling in. For more activities, kids might want to try their directional skills in the Archway Trailblaze Maze. Or you may simply want to step out onto the bridge over the adjacent pond and feed the catfish that swarm underneath waiting for kindly tourists. All in all, a fun and worthwhile stop, though not exactly a bargain at $10 for adult admission.