Scottsbluff

Photo by Alan J. Bartels

Visiting Scottsbluff can be a wildly fun experience. You would expect to find wild animals in the rugged country around Scottsbluff, and you will. Elk, pronghorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bobcats and even an occasional mountain lion are seen here. You wouldn’t expect to see exotic species such as chimpanzees, zebras or tigers, but you’ll find them at Riverside Discovery Center. The zoo is home to more than 70 animal species.


They include rare species such as Amur tigers, addax and several different kinds of primates. Other special exhibits include the Big Cat Complex, Chimpanzee Conservation Center and Heritage Barn with a petting zoo. Not a fan of the furry? The Riverside Discovery Center has tortoises, turtles, hedgehogs and boa constrictors, too. When visiting during summer, bring swimsuits and flip-flops to enjoy the Splash-pad, a refreshing zero-depth water feature.


The 23-acre facility with its new Dino Dig is located on South Beltline Highway W., half a mile west of Highway 71. (308) 630-6236. www.riversidediscoverycenter.org. Open daily 9:30 am-4:30 pm. Riverside Campground, open May through September, is nearby. (308) 630-6238.


The Westmoor Pool is another family-friendly attraction in Scottsbluff. Located at Avenue I and 20th Street, the outdoor pool includes water cannons, slides and a lazy river. (308) 632-8881.

The West Nebraska Arts Center, located in the Carnegie Library at 106 E. 18th St., is a hub of activity for painting, sculpture, artists-in-residence and the performing arts (308) 632-2226. Affiliated programs are Theatre West, a summer theater company, and the historic Midwest Theater, a grand, old movie palace of yesteryear in downtown Scottsbluff. (308) 632-4311.


Alongside the North Platte River and Scotts Bluff National Monument, walking and biking trails connect Scottsbluff, Gering and Terrytown. Monument Valley Pathways includes 6.3 miles of trails; 26 miles are planned.


In 1902, railroad surveyors discovered an old wagon tire inscribed with the name of Rebecca Winters and the year 1852. It marked the grave of the Mormon pioneer woman who was stricken with cholera near Fort Kearny and perished near what is now Scottsbluff. Her family continued west. The proximity of the memorial to the railroad tracks led to the woman’s remains being moved in 1995, with more than 100 of Winters’ descendants in attendance. Today, the wagon tire is part of the monument that tells her story. The Rebecca Winters Grave is alongside Highway 26, 1 1/2 miles east of Scottsbluff.


The area’s frontier history is also commemorated on the Oregon Trail west of Scottsbluff near the intersection of Highway 92 and Hunt Dairy Road. Two markers stand here. One is for Fort Mitchell, a cavalry outpost built in 1864. The fort and a nearby pass of the same name were named for Gen. Robert B. Mitchell, who commanded the military district of Nebraska. All traces of the fort have vanished, but this marker stands as a reminder of the role the men stationed at Fort Mitchell played in the settlement of the region. The marker was erected in 1923.


The monument to the left depicts a Pony Express rider and is dedicated to the young men who willingly rode into danger for the brief time that the organization existed (1860-1861). The exact spot of the Scotts Bluff Station is unknown but is believed to have been on Fort Mitchell, or somewhere very nearby.


In Western Nebraska, the human population is sparse and people value wide-open spaces. Scottsbluff, with 15,000 residents, is the Panhandle’s largest city. Combined with sister city Gering (pop. 10,500) and with Terrytown (pop. 1,200) sandwiched between, the Scottsbluff/Gering metro area is the largest population center in Western Nebraska. The much younger Terrytown was founded by businessman and politician Terry Carpenter in 1949.


For more information about Scottsbluff contact Scottsbluff Area Tourism at www.visitscottsbluff.com or the Scottsbluff/Gering United Chamber of Commerce at (308) 632-2133.