The Great Plains, Texas
Composed of parts of Texas,
Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, the Great Plains outside cities give the discerning tourist an idea of what America used
to look like before white man arrived.
- The endless fields get tedious though the monotony can be
surreally fascinating in its own right.
- Distances between worthwhile attractions are a problem unless
you enjoy lengthy self-drive or take a well organised tour; the
west and east highways will put you to sleep faster than Wyatt Earp's
- The weather fronts here crash head to head with interesting results
- tornado alley in spring and blizzard central in winter.
Best: April-June and September-October, in more southerly states,
but April-May is also major tornado season, so you could try July-August,
but the heat gets extreme in southern regions.
Worst: December-February, rain and snow, severe in some parts.
Hiking: Big Bend National Park, Texas; Black Hills, South Dakota; Theodore
Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.
Whitewater Rafting and Canoeing: Big
Bend National Park, Texas; Valentine, Nebraska
Mountainbiking: Black Hills National
Forest, South Dakota; Katy Trail State Park, Nebraska
Cowboy Stuff: Dude Ranches offer ranch
lifestyle holidays, allowing guests to join in and play at being
cowboys or cowgirls, while organised Wagon Drives offer a more imaginative
and pioneering historical take on the experience and Rodeos turn
extreme ranching techniques into a wild spectator sport.
Tornado Chasing: If you're the kind
of person that gets a buzz watching a storm wreck things and are
willing to accept that it may wreck you then head out with professional
storm chasers for fast moving whirlwinds. Rides are at maximum speed
April through to August starting earlier in the south; April-May
is the most intense.
Birdwatching: thousands of Sandhill
and Whooping Cranes roost in the North Platte River Valley, Nebraska.
Crane Meadows Nature Center is Crane 'twitcher' central.
The great plains run all the way from the north of the country to
the far south, a rising plateau from the Mississippi River in the
east to the Rocky Mountains where the wild west begins and buffalo
used to roam with Indians close behind.
Representing the old and new aspects of the plains particularly
well is the boot clad, gun toting, Stetson wearing, rodeo riding,
steak eating, space exploring Lone Star State of Texas, though distanced
somewhat from its northerly cousins by a beachy wilderness coastline,
river adventure and the big city action in Dallas-Fort Worth, more
The most scenic of the great plains states also offering the most
famous, tragic, Native American history as typified by the stories
of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
Forested mountains among the plains for something a little different
from fields of crops or grassy prairies.
Rushmore National Monument:
magnificent, massive facial depictions in the side of the mountain - presidents
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt
Crazy Horse Memorial: dead presidents
may get big faces carved in the rock but how about a whole Indian
on a horse at over five hundred feet high - an awesome work in progress!
Black Hills National Forest: hundreds
of miles of hiking trails and cycling opportunities.
Custer State Park: wild Buffalo and
other wild things including mountain lions; a round up of the big
hairy ones takes place every October.
Wind Cave National Park: a cave nearly
one hundred miles long, plus wildlife and decent hiking.
Weird rocky alien landscape with colourful pointy bits and deep
surreal hiking trails through the bizarre rocks, Sci Fi fans will
of the more interesting great plains states from an urban culture
point of view, plus two great rivers, the Missouri and Mississippi, as well as the attractive Ozark mountains.
Louis: the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet here.The must-see landmark
is the huge Gateway Arch with the Museum of Westward Expansion underneath.
Cuisine is good and varied, with plenty of bars and clubs,
some theater and classical music.
Branson: country music and comedy
theater overload in dozens of theaters and even more performances
throughout the summer season - entertaining to some, painfully tacky
Kansas City: Kansas style barbecue
joints, several museums and attractions such as the Jazz, Steamboat,
Baseball, and Toy and Miniature Museums, the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum
and Country Club Plaza, plus a historic shopping centre, on offer.
The largest Native American population in the country, the most
miles of Route 66, some mountains and a good selection of museums.
Lawton and Fort Sill, this is a top spot for tourists interested in Indian life, with regular powwows and
excellent museums: Southern Plains Indian Museum, Indian City and
National Hall of Fame for Indians, Museum of the Great Plains and
Oklahoma City: not the most attractive
urban area but there is some rejuvenation and a handful of attractions - the National
Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, State Museum, and Omniplex.
Tulsa: the main interest is architectural,
usually art deco. Highlights include the Tulsa Union Depot, Union
Methodist Church and the evangelically spacey campus of the Oral
Wichita Mountains: Wichita Mountains
Wildlife Refuge and Quartz Mountain State Park for hiking, climbing
Rural life overload perhaps but saved from tourism disaster by being scenic
with some aesthetically pleasing bridges.
County: seven bridges made famous in a book/film, appreciation is at the
maximum during the Seven Bridges Festival.
Eldon: Grant Wood's American Gothic
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge for an eco study in pre-farmed prairie lands. i.e. how the plains
were when the Native-Americans and buffalo still roamed there.
Amana Colonies for German cuisine,
crafty towns and an Amana History Museum.
Des Moines is a generally lacklustre
capital, but the Living History Farms have decent reconstructed
Dyersville for the famous and quaint
'Field of Dreams' baseball field and National Farm Toy Museum.
Fertile prairies cover this cold, northerly state on the border
with Canada. Few tourist attractions, though the parkland prairies
are great for hiking and plains wildlife.
Roosvelt National Park, a good park with lots of protected tall grass plains land and associated
wildlife including bison, prairie dogs and many birds, for hiking
White Cloud: visit the National Buffalo
Museum, Jamestown to see the extremely rare White Buffalo known
as White Cloud.
Fort Abraham State Park: reconstructed
Cavalry fort and Indian settlements.
Rather a uniform landscape, but with some worthwhile cities and
pioneering history for the enthusiast; some good whitewater opportunities
and great for pink blushing birds.
Valentine for whitewater rafting.
Omaha and Lincoln: check out historic
Old Market, Joslyn Art Museum, Malcom X and Gerald R Ford birth
places, in Omaha, and the Strategic Air Command museum on the way
to Lincoln, where the Capitol building is worth a look.
Pioneer Trail: various attractions,
such as Scott's Bluff National Monument, Fort Kearny State Historical
Park, Ash Hollow State Historical Park and Chimney Rock, also the
Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historic Park.
Tornado central, even Oz's Dorothy got whisked off by one here,
amongst the endless fields of cereal crops, but little else for
the international tourist.
Wichita for the Intertribal Pow-wow of the Indian Center Museum and wild
west shows at Old Cowtown.
Liberal and Sedan: priceless if you
are really into the Wizard of Oz; see the Land of Oz at Yellow Brick
Road in Liberal and another Yellow Brick Road in Sedan.
Dodge City for the Boot Hill Western
Museum and Sante Fe Trail.
Festivals and Events
Festival of the Arts, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
June, Ragtime Festival, Sedalia, Missouri.
June, Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival, Oklahoma City,
August, Sturgis Rally and Races (tens of thousands of Harley Davidson
enthusiasts), Sturgis, South Dakota.
August, Missouri State Fair, Sedalia, Missouri.
October, Charlie Christian Jazz Festival, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
November, World Championship Quarter Horse Show, Oklahoma City,
December, World Barrel Racing Futurity, Oklahoma City.