The Great Plains contain an area of approximately 500,000 square miles. And this wide-open, rolling terrain spans from the Rio Grande River to the Delta of the Mackenzie River near the Arctic Ocean.
If you’ve ever traveled over the Great Plains, chances are you might have found the trip to be a little boring, or otherwise, lacking in scenery. And though a large portion of the Great Plains is farm and ranch land, much of this space holds a magic that only a few have experienced.
There are hidden treasures along every path, and the Great Plains hold their fair share. In fact, the Great Plains are the largest food source for North America, producing over 50 percent of the nation’s wheat.
For those interested in exploring the magic of wide-open spaces, the Great Plains offer a few interesting stops. Here, we’ll explore a few places you might want to stop and see along the way.
Visited by nearly 3 million people or so every year, Mt. Rushmore is an iconic landmark carved out of the Black Hills in South Dakota.
What began as a dream of sorts by a South Dakota historian named Doane Robinson in 1923 as a way to attract tourism to the state, finally manifested when Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum was brought in to work on the project.
You might be surprised to learn that originally, Robinson wanted to carve the likeness of pioneer greats such as Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill, and Red Cloud into the rock spires at Needles. This plan, however, changed once the engineering team was formed.
Today, Mt. Rushmore dominates the landscape and is an indistinguishable stop along the northern route through western South Dakota.
As you drive through the plains, you’re going to come across a lot of open space, grasslands, feed yards (which you’ll be able to smell long before you see them), and other oddities that you wouldn’t expect to find in such a vast open space.
Carhenge is one of these oddities, and it stands as a near exact replica of Stonehenge as found on the Salisbury plain in Wiltshire, England.
In Nebraska, nestled in Alliance, a small town in the western panhandle, you’ll find Carhenge. Originally built in June of 1987 to coincide with the summer solstice, and as a tribute to Jim Reinders’ father, Carhenge became the bizarre roadside attraction that it is today.
The megalith is made from 38 junk cars, all painted gray and aligned in a concentric circle, mimicking the construction of the stone pillars at Stonehenge. In many ways, Carhenge looks a lot like a car graveyard, and it may have you wanting to shop for new auto insurance.
In addition, Tripadvisor named Carhenge as one of the top ten “wackiest” sights found along the roads in the United States.
Boot Hill in Dodge City
If you’ve ever wondered what the “wild west” was really like, you can take a trip back in time when you visit Dodge City, Kansas.
Boot Hill is a historic museum that includes a village that you can walk through to experience what life was like in the 1800’s in the Great Plains. And this includes everything from a general store and a saloon to the “Fort Dodge” jailhouse.
If you’ve ever wondered what famous western lawman Wyatt Earp had to deal with on a daily basis, in the summer, reenactments of the Boot Hill gunfight are held twice a day as long as the weather is permitting. And you can tour the area to your heart’s content.
The Great Plains hold many mysteries, and though driving through this region might lead you to believe that not a lot happens on any particular day with mentioning, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, just driving around the old highways of the Great Plains will give you a sense of wonder, and you’ll never experience a sunrise quite like one that seems to brighten the entire world like it does over the plains.