Ash Hollow State Park
Follow in the Wagon Tracks of the Pioneers.
Photo by Steve & Bobbi Olson
Modern travelers descend into the North Platte Valley by an easy grade. Pioneers faced a steeper route. To this day, Windlass Hill at Ash Hollow State Park bears the scars from the iron-shod wheels of countless wagons that made the steep descent. The ruts have deepened into a little ravine. Visitors can follow a paved walking path to the top of the hill.
An old sod house stands at the bottom of the hill, enclosed with a fence with a wagon wheel gate. “Close gate, please,” a sign reads. “Otherwise cattle get in and rub the old house down.”
Because of its abundant water and trees, Ash Hollow was a favorite resting place for travelers. The park offers camping, picnicking and a visitor center. Hiking trails lead to a cave once inhabited by Native Americans and relics of ancient tribes have been found nearby. A century-old stone schoolhouse is also on park grounds.
The park is 1 1/2 miles southeast of Lewellen on Highway 26. The grounds are open year-round, 8 a.m. to sunset; the visitor center and cave are open from 10-4 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day. A state park entry permit is required. (308) 778-5651.
Rachel Pattison, a newlywed, was just 18 years old when she died of cholera along the trail in 1849. Her grave, one of few marked graves along the trail, is at Ash Hollow Cemetery, a half mile west of the park entrance, east of Lewellen. A drive north brings you to the Clear Creek Wildlife Refuge.
Experience life on the Oregon Trail the Friday and Saturday of Father’s Day weekend each year at the Ash Hollow Pageant, an outdoor performance using historical diaries and music.
For more information, contact the Village of Lewellen at (308) 778-5421.