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Creating a Family Road Trip Lewis and Clark in Nebraska. Getting out and doing as well as seeing the real stuff is energizing for all ages and the story of Lewis & Clark is uniquely American, a story worth sharing with your kids. Organizing a family version takes time but is definitively worth the effort. Just add a few real fossils and it will be the trip of a lifetime.

Flowers, bones and Lewis & Clark. The Corps of Discovery Welcome Center is located at the intersection of The Lewis & Clark Trail and The Pan American Highway (US 81). The facility features exhibits about the Missouri River and the culture and heritage of the area. A dedicated staff of volunteers provides ongoing programs that are both entertaining and informative. From wild flowers to fossil bones this facility serves as an excellent resource for a vacation along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The bookstore has an inventory of local crafts and books unique to the area. (89705 US Highway 81, Crofton. (402)-667-6557 or

First encounter of the Sioux kind. The Lewis and Clark Visitor Center was built on a bluff overlooking Lewis and Clark Lake and Gavins Point Dam, on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River across from Yankton, South Dakota. The Visitor Center is an ideal place to learn more about the expedition, the tribes they encountered and the river itself. Near this site Lewis and Clark met with the Yankton Sioux and as the exhibits explain there were many discoveries made. There is a 30-minute video presentation about the entire Lewis and Clark expedition. Adjacent to the Center is a short trail leading to the Dorian Prairie Garden with a variety of grassland plants labeled to make identification easy. The Lewis and Clark Recreation Area frames the Missouri River (Nebraska and South Dakota) upstream from the Visitor Center. The area offers a full-service marina, sandy beaches, hiking/biking trails and a paved trail that traces the South Dakota shoreline. (121 Hwy, US Army Corps of Engineers Gavins Point Dam. (402) 667-2546 or

Look for the vanishing river. Missouri National Recreational River (administered by The National Park Service) is one of the longest remnants of the original Missouri River outside of Montana. Based at Lewis and Clark Visitor Center near Yankton staff members provide useful information and maps that identify lesser-known Lewis and Clark sites along the Nebraska and South Dakota border. Rangers conduct daily programs for visitors during the summer months Topics relate to the Missouri River as well as the Corps of Discovery encounters unique to the area. (121 Hwy, US Army Corps of Engineers Gavins Point Dam. (402) 667-2550 or

Niobrara, fossil hunting made easy.
On one of our cross-country junkets we had the good fortune to discover the Ashfall Fossil Beds. It is pure bliss for kids that love rocks and dinosaurs and just plain cool for everyone else. It is solidly in the not-to-be-missed category. Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is a working site with more fossils being unearthed each summer. It is small in size thus making it easy to see real fossils, touch specimens and talk with scientists. The science they are doing is real and they are willing to talk about it. The best thing to do is follow the marked interpretive trail. The years diminish as the path leads to the excavation sites.

Prehistoric mammals gathered at this site, once and ancient watering hold. A sudden volcanic eruption from the Cascade Range brought ash so thick that the animals were covered before they could escape. Onsite is a visitor center as well as a working paleontology lab and field office.

Lewis and Clark were not here. Part of the excavation site known as the “Rhino Barn” is under a roof and protected from wind and rain. Scientists work under this roof as well as in open areas along the pathway. One of the most amazing skeletons is of a Rhino that was pregnant. Both mom and baby may be seen from the viewing platform. Royal. This is really a surprising place to go with kids. Bonus points: It is possible to talk with scientists when they were taking their breaks from digging. The lab has observation windows allowing visitors to watch the process of preserving the fossils or bones found at the site. Kid's Note: The fossils are so cool. We saw one just discovered three years ago. It was a Saber -Toothed Deer. There were also lots of Hornless Rhinos fossils found at a watering hole. (Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. 86930 517th Avenue Royal, NE 68773. (402) 893-2000 or

Also on the list. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is also worth a look, this monument features one of the richest mammalian fossil bone beds ever found in the United States. Among the fossils are fossils of such mammals as Menoceras and Moropus. The dig site is still active, and paleontologists can sometimes been seen at work. Gering. (308) 668-2211,

Additional Lewis & Clark Resources

Montana: Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. This is a marvelous resource site with not only pages for kids but many useful links by region and season. Toll-free 1-888-701-3434 - 600 Central Avenue Suite 327 Great Falls, MT 59403 or

South Dakota: Lewis and Clark Association. The Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce along with the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan has created Lewis and Clark's Historic Trail site to celebrate Yankton's place in history. The maps showcase not only South Dakota but the entire route. The site is great and it provides one more resource for community events.

South Dakota Lewis and Clark CD. A useful companion on the road the CD is available on loan at any of the South Dakota Information Centers along I-90 and I-29. Listen to the stories about the Corps of Discovery as you drive the trail. Additionally some businesses along the trail also sell the CD or you may order one from the Southeast South Dakota Visitors Association. 1-888-353-7382.  For more information go to

Content updated by Family Travel Files accurate at the time of posting. Copyright 2015. 

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