Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another Nebraska Paradise

For once I'm not going to blog about the beautiful Sandhills of Nebraska. This time I'm going to go on and on about the beautiful Loess (pronounced "luss") hills of Nebraska. The Loess hills are just south of the Platte River Valley, stretching roughly between Cozad and North Platte and continuing on until nearly reaching Highway 6.

We spent the afternoon at the beautiful Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center. The premiere attraction at Dancing Leaf is the reconstructed Pawnee Earth Lodge. The view from the Lodge area is amazing.
As you can see, the topography is quite different than the Sandhills. Rough, steep and treelined.

The banks of the Medicine Creek are one of the richest areas in the U.S. for fossils. Fourteen major and countless minor "type specimens" (the first of it's kind) have been found in the area.
The above is a plaster cast of one of the most unique and largest saber-toothed cat ever found, and it was unearthed right in the area. Among the major fossils found nearby is "Archie", the type-specimen and largest of it's kind, Imperial Mammoth fossil that is on display in Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. The Museum at Dancing Leaf is filled with displays like this, and trace the development of the Plains Peoples from the times of throwing spears, through the development of the atlatl, then bows and arrows, and finally the influence of the European settlers.

The farm yard of a typical earth lodge dwelling was the most important place in the community. The lodge itself would only have been used as a shelter, with most of the activity of daily life taking place in the yard.
The creek at the bottom of the valley would have been vital to the survival of the residents of the Lodge, but their home was actually placed high on a bluff to protect it from possible flooding.
Even though the afternoon we visited was well into the 90's, the interior of the lodge was cool. The design and thick walls made it so, as well as the control of air flow through the long entrance tunnel. Twelve to eighteen people would live in this lodge, in a matriarchal family unit.
And here are the sleeping quarters. The Lodge is available for overnight guests - complete with sleep-number beds - just add the number of deer hides underneath you until you're comfortable. The accommodations also include full use of the 115 acres, hiking trails and canoeing ponds. Most of all, it includes the expertise of your hosts to explain life in this ancient culture.
Just in case the rustic Lodge isn't to your liking, Dancing Leaf also features comfortable, beautiful cabins, secluded and with spectacular views of the Medicine Creek valley.
See - all the comforts of home.
Dancing Leaf also features an Earth Dial, which documents the rotation of the earth, phases of the moon and tracks the solstices and equinoxes. It compliments the huge Medicine Wheel on a nearby hillside, which unfortunately we didn't have time to hike to.
The Gift Shop at Dancing Leaf carries the most complete line of Native and Earth centered art and gifts available in the area.


Last of all, the beautiful home of the hosts, which they open up to large parties (wouldn't this just be fantastic for a wedding?) of up to 75.


Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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