Surrounded by rugged ranchlands and pine-speckled bluffs, steeped long and deep with Old-West history, beautiful, peaceful and fun – this is Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
Sculpted with ancient cottonwood trees and century-old buildings, the Fort’s sheer enormity absorbs most traces of tourism, even during peak summer season. It’s quiet. Visitors clump together in family troops as families should. Days revolve around horseback or jeep rides, trips to the pool, barbeques, museum visits, or just hanging out. This is a mecca for family reunions. Calm days allow distant laughter to be heard as long-lost relatives catch up and young cousins play, all instantly beginning where they left off no matter how many years have passed.
Pulled by two chestnut mules, the Fort’s iconic stagecoach rattles around a well-worn wooded trail carrying excited youngsters with supple backs. Parents come away with a new appreciation of the rough ride once endured by our ancestors, but they still have fun vicariously through their children.
Astonished whoops echo off the tall ceiling as children enter the pool building – it’s huge. Three diving boards line the deep end. A wrangler in a cowboy hat chats with the lifeguard while watching stunts off the high board.
Horses are a daylong appeal. Some love attention and are quick to approach fences to be petted. Their immensity, their smell, the heat and power of their breath, the sound of tails swishing at flies; all this is new to many people. It’s personal and powerful. In age-old barns, horses munch hay and rest while sparrows flit and chirp in sturdy wood rafters.
Eager families gather in swimsuits applying sunscreen in the shade of giant trees near the main lodge. They’re soon off to kayak the White River. Few know how to paddle, but it won’t matter in this lazy, narrow creek lined with tall grass and flittering with black moths. Screams of exhilaration and joy can be heard from the launch spot for 15 minutes as tourists slide downstream backwards and sideways, bumping into one another despite their best efforts.
At evening time campgrounds come alive as charcoal lights and lines of smoke fill the air. These are tree-shaded micro-communities with invisible boundaries and ever changing neighbors. People get to know traveling strangers; it’s part of the experience.
Twice a week Fort employees throw a mini-rodeo. It’s fun and a bit goofy, which fits the relaxed crowd of diverse vacationers perfectly. Late evenings at the Post Playhouse, seasoned actors perform musicals to smiling, laughing audiences. These are superb young actors from across the U.S. Like all things at Fort Robinson, the Post Playhouse is intimate, informal and most of all it’s fun.
Evening ends as quietly as the day began. Tomorrow everything will repeat at Fort Robinson. People are happy here, the Fort keeps them close. That’s why they came.