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A closer look at Windlass Hill

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 12:19 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - There is a feature of Ash Hollow State Historical Park that gets visitors in tune with the incredible effort pioneers made to travel west.

We recently talked with Tamara Cooper about the feature at the park called “Windlass Hill”. It was basically a cut-off for pioneers on the Oregon and California Trails to get to their destination faster. “If you cut off at the top of the table ground at California Hill and come through Ash Hollow to the south to get to the Platte River, it would shave off two weeks’ drive time,” Cooper said.

You can still see swales of wagon ruts on Windlass Hill. These are depressions of where the wagons would have traveled. It was treacherous for the wagons to come down the hill. “You have animals pulling the wagons,” Cooper said. “We know they did it one wagon at a time.”

If people want to see remnants of the trail or path of the wagons, you can take trails to the top of Windlass Hill. “You can walk on the path of the trail,” Cooper said. “I think one of the best pictures was taken from the air, and you can distinctly see the trail coming into Ash Hollow.”

There is much to see at the park. “Windlass Hill is one of our taller peaks in the park,” Cooper said. “So the view of the river valley is beautiful. Our history is deep here. We have Oregon Trail history, Native American history, fur trapping history. There’s a ton of history here, but you also get to enjoy the park, because it all takes place outdoors. So you can enjoy yourself while enjoying nature in one of the most scenic places in western Nebraska.”

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