The Oregon Trail

East of Ainsworth, US-20 runs through an especially scenic section of the Sand Hills around the artsy hamlet of Bassett before following the Elkhorn River 66 miles downstream to the town of O’Neill (pop. 3,663). Nebraska’s official “Irish Capital,” O’Neill hosts a popular St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebration (the town paints shamrocks on the side of the police station and at the intersection of US-20 and US-281). It also has a fascinating history: The town was founded in 1880 by Irish settlers led by John O’Neill, who commanded a brigade of black infantrymen during the Civil War and afterward became involved in the Fenian raids on still-British Canada.