The Oregon Trail

Just over the Wyoming border, the tiny town of Harrison (pop. 238, elev. 4,878 feet; “Nebraska’s Top Town”) is an attractive wide spot in the road located near the highest point in the state. The spirit of old-time hospitality is kept alive by a pair of welcoming haunts: the Longhorn Saloon (168 Main St.) and the Harrison House Hotel (115 Main St., 308/668-2166, rooms $50-95) in an 1886 building. The hotel also includes a breakfast-only restaurant that serves brunch on Sunday. Outside town, on the banks of the Niobrara River, 23 miles south of Harrison, the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (308/436-9760, daily, free) contains the 19- to 21-million-year-old remains of bison-size pigs, twin-horned proto-rhinos, and other vanished Miocene-era creatures. The acres of grassland here are good for wildflowers and bird-watching, even if you aren’t fascinated by old bones. If you are interested in paleontology, the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and the Hudson-Meng Bison Bone Bed in nearby Crawford are both stops along what is being marketed as the “Fossil Freeway” collection of historic sites in Nebraska and South Dakota.