Nebraska City, NE, Part I: Arbor Day Farm
From Hastings, it was about a three-hour drive to our next stop in Nebraska City, NE, which is right on the Iowa state line. In Nebraska City, we stayed at Victorian Acres Campground. Victorian Acres has both pull-throughs and back-ins, and both full-hookup and water and electric only sites. Some sites are 50-amp only, and some are 30-amp. There is free Wi-Fi.
The roads are dusty gravel, and the pads are grassy gravel. The row of pull-through sites we were in was the only row that had shared, side-by-side hookups. The side-by-side sites were very long, but a little close together. Fortunately, the campground wasn't full and they didn't have to use more than every other side by side site. We even had extra room because they didn't use the site next to us due to the location of a utility pole and transformer interfering with access to the hookups on that site. The photo below shows our site at Victorian Acres.
The next photo is a view down the row behind our site.
There is a little traffic noise from 4-lane Nebraska State Route 2 that passes the campground. It was hot and humid while we were in Nebraska City, and we ran the air 24 hours a day. Therefore, we didn't notice the traffic noise much, especially since it died down at night.
Nebraska City was the home of Julius Sterling Morton, who was the founder of Arbor Day. J. Sterling Morton moved to Nebraska in 1854 before it had even been organized as a territory. Morton became editor of the local newspaper.
Morton and his fellow pioneers living on the nearly treeless plains of Nebraska missed their trees from back east. Recognizing the trees would also play an important role as windbreaks, Morton began experimenting with growing different kinds of trees. He even imported trees from around the world to determine which would grow best in Nebraska. He published articles in his paper encouraging both individuals and civic groups to plant trees.
J. Sterling Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday in 1872. In 1874, the Nebraska governor officially proclaimed April 10, 1874 as Arbor Day. Arbor Day is now celebrated nationally and around the world. Today, Arbor Day is most commonly celebrated on the last Friday in April. However, the date in some locations varies to take advantage of the best time for planting trees.
We arrived in Nebraska City on Friday, so we relaxed over the weekend and left the sightseeing to the weekend warriors. It was a little cloudy Monday morning, so we put off sightseeing for another day and drove north to Omaha to run some errands. On Tuesday, we drove about 10 minutes from the campground to Arbor Day Farm. Arbor Day Farm is a 260-acre working tree farm that includes orchards, greenhouses, an agro-forestry field that combines trees and farming, and research facilities. The farm, which was once part of the J. Sterling Morton estate, is operated by the Arbor Day Foundation.
The Tree Adventure is an educational part of Arbor Day Farm that is open to the public. The entrance to the Tree Adventure shown in the next photo.
There are a lot of hands-on displays that are aimed at kids, but which are also interesting for adults. Inside, there is a small museum that has displays stressing the importance of trees. There are computers with touch screens that guide you through a tree identification game. There is a fun movie about trees in the movies. In the next photo, Paul is checking out an exhibit that shows the names of different parts of a tree.
Outside, there is a .5-mile, paved walking trail and a .7-mile wood-chip loop that branches off the main, paved trail. The next photo shows us at the start of the paved trail.
The trails have numerous exhibits that touch all your senses. One interesting display had pictures of various birds. You could press a button and hear recordings of the birds' songs. You could also press another button to record and play back your own attempt to imitate the bird songs.
There was another display that consisted of a series of wooden boxes with forest smells. There were things like the fragrance of various blossoms (we liked honeysuckle), different types of wood (these were a little faint and hard to make out), and deer musk (yuck!).
Hearing is important for woodland animals. Another display had cones to amplify sound so you could experience the sounds that some animals hear. The next photos show us trying out the hearing exhibit. We thought we could also use as personal hearing aids, but there's not enough room for them in the motor home.
Animal footprints were pressed into the concrete of the walkway at various intervals.
After you follow the footprints for a while, there is a marker that identifies the animal that made the tracks. We were able to identify quite a few of them.
At the Nature Explore Club Cabin there are nature displays that include animal bones, antlers, a beehive with real bees and a glass cover so you can see inside, wood samples, butterflies and insects, and more. In the photo below, Margery is checking out tree bark specimens.
Next to the nature cabin is a 50-foot treehouse where you can look out over the forest canopy.
Along the wood-chip trail, we came to three chairs we decided to try out. Notice the sign. Paul had to really hustle to get up into the chair before the camera timer went off. It took three tries.
A little farther along, there was a sculpture made up of copper silhouettes of birds. If you'd put something like that out in the woods back in Pennsylvania where we come from, they'd be full of bullet holes.
Near the end of the walking trail is a kids' play area. Fortunately, big kids can play there, too. Paul enjoyed banging on the extra-large wooden marimba.
When we finished the walking trails, we stopped into the greenhouse...
...which was full of hazelnut seedlings. Notice the nut at the base of the seedling.
As we said, the Arbor Day Tree Farm is a working tree farm, and they pack and ship trees to most states, except a few states that have agricultural restrictions. They also ship gift trees for company promotions, wedding favors, fundraisers, etc. The fellow in the next photo is getting plastic tubes ready to receive seedlings for shipping.
The stop at the greenhouse concluded our visit at the Arbor Day Tree Farm. We still have a couple of other things we want to see while we are in Nebraska, so stay tuned.