Our natural and human history has wrought strong imprints in Nebraska. Within Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center’s 808 acres lie wagon ruts, undisturbed by the plow or more modern bulldozer, that mark the crossing of wagons along the Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff, a direct freighting trail in southeast Nebraska.
As more and more people began to migrate westward across North America in the nineteenth century, they needed food and other goods to sustain them. The Oregon Trail supported this commerce and linked sites along the Missouri River to the newly discovered Oregon Country. Offshoots of the Oregon Trail, like the Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff (see attachment below), developed as people sought direct routes. The wagon ruts now punctuating our prairie lie on the oldest of the trail’s three major alignments.
At Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, historic hollows remaining in the soil memorialize the passage of these pioneers. Perhaps more significant is that they lie in that rare area where no human being or ox turned the soil to cultivate crops. As we meet our goal of conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, here we can actually preserve a pristine area for the creatures that lived here long before people came to settle.