Nebraska Travel: Guides and Histories
This list may interest anyone who plans to travel in Nebraska. Most books here are available for checkout in the circulating collections. Books whose call numbers begin with "Heritage" are available only in the Heritage Room, for use in the library only. Topics include roadside guides, guides to state and local history, nature guides, guides to the Sandhills region, and guides to literary Nebraska. The list offers a representative sample of works in this vein, to which many others could be added. The definition of what constitutes a "guide" has been interpreted broadly here, to include entertaining or illuminating books that were not originally written as guidebooks. Enjoy your trip!
917.82 Boy 1993
Boye, Alan. The complete roadside guide to Nebraska. Prefaces by Ron Hansen and Wright Morris. Second Edition. St. Johnsbury, VT: Saltillo Press, 1993.
A breezy wide-ranging roadside guide to the state with prefaces by two distinguished Nebraska authors.
Brevet Press. Brevet’s Nebraska Historical Markers and Sites. Sioux Falls, Brevet Press, 1974.
An illustrated listing of the familiar roadside markers with their texts.
917.82 Fed 1979
Federal Writer’s Project. Nebraska: A guide to the Cornhusker State. Compiled and written by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Nebraska. (American Guide Series) New York: Hastings House, 1939 (1947 printing).
A guide to every aspect of the state when it was written, the book is still a mine of information on local history and lore. Later guidebooks draw on it. The depression-era American Guide Series, of which this is considered a distinguished example, has been called the most thorough survey of the cultural geography of the country ever undertaken. The guide is divided into three sections. The first introduces the state in a series of essays on geography, American Indians, history, government, agriculture and the farmer, industry, architecture, education, folklore, and other topics. This is followed by a survey of towns and cities that reviews the town history and places of interest. The book closes with 16 regional automobile tours pointing out local historical sites, interesting buildings and natural features.
917.82 McN 2003
McNally, Hannah. Nebraska: Off the beaten path. Guilford: Globe Pequot Press, 2003. 4th Edition.
A guide to cultural sites and events, parks, local events. Recommends the odd restaurant, hotel, or tavern as well.
Moulton, Candy Roadside History of Nebraska. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1997.
A tour of Nebraska history, region by region. With highway maps and photographs.
917.82 Wil 1996
Wilson, D. Ray Nebraska historical tour guide. Carpentersville: Crossroads, 1996. 3rd Edition.
A guide arranged as a series of mini-tours, including the Lewis and Clark "trail" , early European settlement and Indian wars, and different landscapes and areas of the state.
Heritage/Reference 978.233 Daw
Dawson, Charles. Pioneer Tales of the Oregon Trail and of Jefferson County. Topeka: Crane and Co., 1912.
This book offers an interesting account, not accepted everywhere but based on local interviews and correspondence with witnesses, of William Butler Hickock’s murder of David McCanles at Rock Creek Station. Reading it may add to the interest of visiting Rock Creek Station State Historical Park near Fairbury.
Petsche, Jerome E. The Steamboat Bertrand. History, Excavation, and Architecture. Washington: National Park Service, 1974.
A thorough guide to the search, discovery, excavation, cargo, and reconstruction of the Steamboat Bertrand, which sunk at DeSoto Bend on April 1, 1865. The Bertrand was found on land belonging to DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge, in Nebraska. The museum at the site displays the surprisingly cosmopolitan cargo that was headed upstream to Fort Benton, Montana Territory.
Lee, Wayne C. Wild Towns of Nebraska. Caldwell: Caxton Printers, 1988.
A town by town account of wild goings on in early Nebraska. Reproduces early photographs of places and people. The author is Nebraska's most prolific writer of "westerns."
Lee, Wayne C. Bad Men and Bad Towns. Caldwell: Caxton Printers, 1993.
Local histories of Indian raids, murders, and lynching in Nebraska from the 1820s to the 1920s, organized by period and place. With many old photographs.
978.2 Mat 1987
Mattes, Merrill. The Great Platte River Road. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society Publications Vol. 25, 1969.
This book has won acclaim as a detailed, thoroughly researched, in-depth account of the pioneers’ experiences along the central part of the main route to Oregon and California. Winner of the Silver Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and many other awards. With maps.
Potter, James E. and L. Robert Puschendorf, ed. Spans in time: A history of Nebraska Bridges. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1999.
An illustrated history.
Rapp, William F. and Susan K. Beranek. The Industrial Archaeology of Nebraska. Crete, Nebraska: J.B. Publishing, 1984.
A survey of early industrial buildings and ruins includes foundries, railroad stations and roundhouses, the Great Western Sugar Company and other mills, and ice houses, breweries and oil refineries. With photographs.
385 Bar Bartels, Michael M. and James J. Reisdorff. Ghost Railroads of Nebraska—A Pictorial. David City: South Platte Press with Brueggenjohann/Reese, Inc. and J&L Lee Co., 2002.
A well illustrated history, with several maps, of abandoned railways and railroad facilities.
Reisdorff, James J. and Michael M. Bartels. Railroad stations in Nebraska. An era of use and reuse. 3rd Edition. David City: South Platte Press, 1987.
Explores all eras, with many pictures. The last two chapters review surviving buildings.
Seymour, Silas Incidents of a trip through the Great Platte Valley to the Rocky Mountains and Laramie Plains in the fall of 1866… New York: Van Nostrand, 1867. (Facsimile)
This is Seymour’s account of his trip with government inspectors first to Kearney, then to the end of the tracks at North Platte in September and December of 1866. With interesting speeches by dignitaries and other incidents that reveal the attitudes of the time.
Bleed, Ann and Charles Flowerday, editors. An Atlas of the Sand Hills. Lincoln: Conservation and Survey Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1990 (Second Edition).
This is a collection of essays and maps by experts in a variety of fields, exploring natural features, geology, water and other natural resources, and human use.
Johnsgard, Paul A. This fragile land: A natural history of the Nebraska Sandhills. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
The most thorough guide available to the natural history and regional ecology of the Sandhills, a place where travel is difficult and population sparse. Explores the regions, habitats, ecology and plants, birds, wildlife and insects of the Sandhills. With line drawings, maps, and habitat profiles. By a world renowned ornithologist who loves the Sandhills.
Jones, Stephen R. The Last Prairie. A Sandhills Journal. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press/McGraw Hill, 2000.
A celebration of the history and natural history of the Sandhills in the form of a personal journal.
978.2 q Mcl (Gere Library)
McIntosh, Charles Baron The Nebraska Sand Hills: The human landscape. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.
A scholarly work with many sketch maps, this is our most comprehensive guide to understanding and exploring the historical geography of the Nebraska Sandhills.
More books about the Nebraska Sandhills are listed HERE.
Johnsgard, Paul A. Lewis and Clark on the Great Plains. A Natural History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
Follows the explorers’ route across the Great Plains, looking at the animals and plants that they were the first to describe. Includes a guide to Lewis and Clark sites that are still of botanical and zoological interest. With Johnsgard’s pen and ink illustrations.
Johnsgard, Paul A. The nature of Nebraska: Ecology and biodiversity. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
The most comprehensive guide to the ecological regions, processes, and flora and fauna of the state. With some of Johnsgard’s pen and ink illustrations.
Johnsgard, Paul The birds of Nebraska and adjacent plains states. (Occasional Papers of the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union, No. 6) Lincoln: Fifth Printing by Author, 1996.
Describes residence, migration, breeding and habitats. Maps in appendix show breeding season ranges, residential ranges, and migratory or wintering areas. Spiral bound.
Lingle, Gary R. Birding Crane River: Nebraska’s Platte. William S. Whitney and Earnest V. Ochsner, illus. Grand Island: Harrier Publishing, 1994.
The essential tour guide for birders who plan to visit the area. Details public and private rainwater basin wetlands, and when and where to look for birds there. Includes maps, drawings, and lists of local organizations. Spiral bound.
Sharpe, Roger S., W. Ross Silcock and Joel Jorgensen. Birds of Nebraska: Their Distribution and Temporal Occurrence. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
Thorough handbook surveys residence, migration, breeding and residential ranges and habitats. Follows Johnsgard's pioneering work.
Farrar, Jon Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains Lincoln: NEBRASKAland Magazine, 1990
A richly illustrated field guide that offers an introductory overview of the state's wildflower regions. Individual entries include common names, flowering period, distribution, habitat, plant description and other interesting facts, such as Native American uses or ecological history.
Lommasson, Robert C. Nebraska Wild Flowers. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1973.
The standard reference work, with some 260 color plates, identification keys, a glossary of terms and index. Description often include typical locations or ecology.
Maher, Harmon D., Jr. et al. Roadside Geology of Nebraska. Missoula: Mountain Press, 2003.
A comprehensive guide to Nebraska’s roadside geology.
560 qNeb Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The cellars of time: Paleontology and Archaelogy in Nebraska. Special Issue of Nebraska History, Spring, 1994.
A well illustrated introduction to Nebraska’s paleontological and archaeological sites, many of which are world renowned.
More Nature Guides, with special themes.
Heritage 577.44 Joh
Johnsgard, Paul. A guide to the Tallgrass Prairies of Eastern Nebraska. Lincoln: Paul Johnsgard, 2006.
Begins with a brief survey of the ecology and history of the tall grass prairie. Offers checklists of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and butterflies of Eastern Nebraska typically found in the tall grass prairies. Includes maps of preserves, easements and relict prairies. Use maps with caution, some areas require owner permission to enter.
Ratcliffe, Brett C. The Scarab Beetles of Nebraska. (Illustrations by Mark E. Marcuson) Lincoln: Bulletin of the University of Nebraska State Museum, Vol. 12, 1991.
The author describes 197 species of scarab beetles known in Nebraska. He examined 42, 852 specimens in making this study. He discovered one new species and found 31 species in the state that had not previously been known to Nebraska.
Diffendal, R.F. et al. Field guide to the geology of the Harlan County Lake area, Harlan County, Nebraska—with a history of events leading to the construction of Harlan County Dam. Lincoln: Conservation and Survey Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2002.
Local history and geology with maps, diagrams and illustrations of fossils that have been found.
Whitney, William S. and Jan Whitney. Microcosm of the Platte: A guide to the Bader Memorial Park natural area. Aurora, Nebraska: Prairie/Plains Resource Institute, 1987.
Very informative and a small masterpiece of two color design and illustration.
Cox, Gerry and Carol McDaniels. Guide to Nebraska Authors. Lincoln: Dageforde Publishing, 1998.
A guide that reveals something about the variety, imaginativeness and power of Nebraska’s literary tradition.
Fitzpatrick, Lillian. Nebraska Place Names. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1960.
Kooser, Ted. Local Wonders. Seasons in the Bohemian Alps. (American Lives, Tobias Wolff, editor) Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
A seasonal study in short essays, and also a guide to the cultural landscape of a small part of the state, full of telling detail and sympathetic insight. The author has held two appointments as United States Poet Laureate.
Pound, Louise. Nebraska Folklore. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1976. (Greenwood Edition)
A pioneering survey of Nebraska folklore by a great scholar of both linguistics and folklore. Pound, Roger Welsch tells us, awakened the interest in folklore in Nebraska and "all subsequent work in the field has revolved around her."
Welsch, Roger L. Inside Lincoln. 3rd edition. Lincoln: Plains Heritage, 1984.
A great humorist and folklorist’s guide to the city. The guide builds on an intimate knowledge of local lore and Welsch’s sharp eye and sparkling sense of humor.
Welsch, Roger L. A Treasury of Nebraska Pioneer Folklore. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.
Unofficial state humorist and folklorist Welsch offers an entertaining collection of Nebraska folklore.