GLIMPSE OF NEBRASKA
Travelers have had a love affair with Nebraska at least as far back as the 18th century, when European pioneers passed through the region for the first time. Today, of course, Nebraska continues to grow in popularity as a travel destination, in part because of its extraordinary places and friendly folks.
Geography and Climate
The Cornhusker State, as Nebraska is affectionately known, has 77,355 square miles of land -- that makes it the 15th largest state in the U.S.! It is bordered by South Dakota to the north, Iowa and Missouri to the east, Kansas to the south, and Colorado and Wyoming to the west. Nebraska has two major geographic regions: the Dissected Till Plains (in the east) and the Great Plains (in the west). The Dissected Till Plains were formed by an Ice Age glacier, which left behind rich soil that is ideal for farming. The Great Plains are home to the Sandhills, the largest sand dune area in North America. Grasses have grown out of these sand dunes, making it a perfect region for raising cattle.
An intriguing section of the Badlands (also found in South Dakota) crosses Nebraska's northern border in two places. Tourists flock there to see the unusual rock formations that were carved out by wind, rain and snow.
Mother Nature offers Nebraska a great variety of weather, including sunny skies and cool summer breezes, as well as tornadoes, thunderstorms, and blizzards. Temperature and precipitation decrease across the state from east to west. Spring and fall are usually very pleasant everywhere in Nebraska.
Plant and Animal Life
Nebraska's environment is conducive to a variety of plant and animal life. The most prevalent native vegetation is grass, and more varieties are found here than in any other state! In the west, short grasses, such as buffalo grass, flourish. In the eastern part of the state, beautiful tall prairie grasses thrive. Early white settlers quickly realized the importance of nature conservation, and they began to plant trees. In 1872, Nebraska was the first state to establish an Arbor Day, and tree planting continues to this day. Common in the state are ash, willow, box elder, cottonwood, locust, oak, walnut, elm, pine and cedar trees. Also contributing to Nebraska's rich mix of plant life are wild plums, chokecherries, and a variety of flowers, such as larkspurs, columbines, wild roses, goldenrods, poppies and sunflowers.
For animal lovers, Nebraska yields an impressive array of wildlife. The buffalo, the stately creature so important to the Native Americans and white settlers of the region, can still be found, mainly in game preserves. Other mammals in the state are beaver, deer, antelope, bobcat, fox, badger, coyote, squirrel, prairie dog, muskrat, skunk, raccoon, rabbit and opossum. Game birds such as pheasants, ducks, geese and quail are common in Nebraska. In the state's waters, one can find bass, carp, catfish, crappies, perch, pike, trout and walleye.
Nebraskaís roots are in its rural communities, where itís easy to find friendly folks.
People in Nebraska
Before the white settlers came to the region, it was the home of several Native American tribes, including the Pawnee, Omaha, Oto, Ponca, Santee, Sioux, Dakota Sioux, Cheyenne, Potawatome, Arapahoe, Sac and Fox. Today, about 9,000 Native Americans live in Nebraska, and many keep their culture alive. Many of Nebraska's early white settlers were European immigrants, mostly from Germany, who sought free land under the U.S. Homestead Act of 1862. Other ethnic groups included the Swedes, Danes, Bohemians, Russians, Poles, French, Irish, English and Italians. Nebraska boasted a dynamic economy even then, and statewide railroad construction spurred development of many new communities. After the Civil War, African Americans found in Nebraska a haven where they could escape mistreatment in the South.
Recent census data show that 98% of the people living in Nebraska today were born in the United States. The state's ethnic mix includes Germans (39.9%), English (13.8%), Irish (11.3%), Swedes (6.7%), Czechs (5.3 %), African Americans (3.6%), people of Native American descent (.07 %), Asian Americans (.07%) and other races.
In 1990, the U.S. Bureau of the Census reported 1,578,385 people living in Nebraska. About 80% of Nebraskans live in the eastern third of the state, which includes the state's two largest cities, Omaha and the capital city of Lincoln. The 10 largest cities by population are:
Since Nebraska became a state, its total population has grown steadily, with the most recent census figures higher than ever before. The only decade in which Nebraska lost population was 1930 to 1940, when the Great Depression created economic hardships in many parts of the world. Nebraska's entire population was rural only a little over a century ago. Since that time, however, the trend has been toward urban living. About two-thirds of the population live in cities, with more than two-fifths in the state's three exciting metropolitan areas of Omaha, Lincoln, and South Sioux City. Nebraska's largest cities, which have much to offer, keep growing!