16-May-2021 -- As the COVID situation precluded travel for so many months, and as a geographer I was longing to get into the field, I finally made careful preparations, and made it into the field in May 2021 to visit confluences, back roads, state lines, grain bins, railroad depots, state parks, and other out of the way places. It was now the 4th and final day of my Great Plains confluence trek. I had visited points in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and this morning, crossed the Missouri River into Nebraska. I was still feeling full of energy even though the clouds were low and gray on this May day. I arrived in Nebraska at Decatur, crossing a magnificent iron bridge, and stopped underneath to take a picture of the structure. But once done, I made a beeline to 42 North 97 West.
I drove almost straight west along State Highway 51 and as I came to the town of Wisner, it was the perfect example of why NOT to follow every single Google Map directions that you are given. Why? Because the map directed me to cross the Elkhorn River, park, and swim to the north bank to the point. Well, the river was at least a football field wide, and flowing high here in Springtime. I was not about to do that! Rather, I would stay dry and on the north bank. I drove on S Road, to the west of town. All along the land to the south were posted No Tresspassing signs, but I was hoping that the state wildlife refuge would allow me the access I needed. I turned south on the refuge road, which was in worse condition than I had hoped, but made it to the gravel parking lot on the river's north bank.
Not only was this a peaceful and serene spot, I was the only one here. I did not think it was hunting season, so I felt ok that I had no reflective clothing with me. Another stroke of luck was that there was a mowed trail through the prairie, heading east-northeast, almost straight for the confluence point. I gathered supplies, set out, and after 15 minutes, crossed the 97th Meridian. A wetland lay between the trail and the point, but by walking through some underbrush to the east, I circled back to the north, and came to the point from east to west. The point was just on the edge of a large tangle of willows and other shrubs, just on its southern edge. To the south of the point it was very wet, but I zeroed out the GPS unit before having to get wet feet and legs.
Under gray skies, and an ever so slight mist, the temperature stood at a coolish 70 F. I had never stood on this confluence before, although I had over the years stood on this 42nd Parallel perhaps over 20 times from Wyoming on the west to Massachusetts on the east. I had also stood on this meridian, 97 West, numerous times. On 97 West, I had traversed a frozen field in South Dakota to the north, and far to the south, had voyaged on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico off of Texas. In between, I had seen many landscapes. I now have a nice assortment of at least 10 points in the Great State of Nebraska. This was my first point in Nebraska in several years, and it was great to be back. After spending about 15 minutes on site, owing to the difficulty of zeroing out the GPS unit, I made my departure.
I thought it odd that I saw no wildlife or birds at this wildlife refuge. But it was still a beautiful place. I posted my video on my Our Earth YouTube channel, here. Before I departed I also filmed a video of me walking through the wetland. Then, since I was so close to the river, I walked down the sand bar and visited the shore a stone's throw to the south. It was a wide and wonderful river flowing that day, and I spent a few minutes there contemplating the importance of rivers on the land. This was the north bank of the Elkhorn River and there is no way I would have wanted to swim across! I then returned to the vehicle, seeing no one, and checking for ticks. I then drove gingerly north back out the lane, then west along S Road, and set my sights on 42 North 98 West, an hour away to the west.
Get out there and explore the world. And again, don't just blindly follow turn-by-turn map and GPS directions!