Past miles and miles of farmland in the heart of the United States lies the Rock Creek Station State Historical Park. A place that once served as a refueling station for pioneers headed west on the Oregon Trail, a depot for the Pony Express, and the place where Wild Bill Hickok first got his nickname. Packed full of history, this beautiful land of rolling green hills was the third stop on our 70 day road trip across the Mid and Northwest.
Rock Creek Campground and Park
The Rock Creek State Historical Park features 350 acres of rolling prarie, and an additional 40 acres that comprises its 13 site campground. Sites come with electric hook-ups and there is a dump station, water available, as well as a fire pit and picnic table in each site. The bathrooms are very clean and well maintained, but be aware, here is only one shower in each. The showers however, are free.
There is a trail leading from the campground out to the visitor’s center, which also serves as an equestrian trial. There are several additional equestrian campsites available outside of the main campground too. The Rock Creek Station Visitor’s Center is open daily until 5pm, there you will find a detailed history of the area as well as quite a few artifacts from the excavation of the park.
This history behind the Rock Creek Station State Historical Park began in 1857 when S.C. Glenn constructed a small shack by the creek and started providing supplies to settlers headed West on the Oregon Trail. In 1859, David McCanles who had been on his way West decided to purchase the property after hearing tales of discouraged gold seekers coming back from California. McCanles erected a toll bridge across the creek and charged travelers to cross. He also built a cabin and dug a well on the other side of the creek, which became known as East Ranch.
In In 1861, McCanles sold East Ranch to a firm that operated the Pony Express, and they hired James Butler Hickok to work there. In July 1961, McCanles showed up at East Ranch demanding money owed to him along with two hired men. McCanles was shot to death that day, and Wild Bill Hickock started his career as a gunslinger.
Today, you can cross the toll bridge, tour recreations of East Ranch, the Pony Express depot, McCanles Cabin and see the deep ruts left behind by the covered wagons crossing the prarie all those years ago. There are miles of trails to hike, and interpretive signs are scattered throughout the park.
We thoroughly enjoyed the history and scenery at this stop in Nebraska. I always try to choose locations that have historical references so that the boys can learn about the history of our country while having fun outdoors. Rock Creek Station State Historical Park is located just outside of Fairbury Nebraska, and camping fees are just $20 per night with electricity included.
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