A Short Visit to Eastern Nebraska – Lincoln and Omaha

Greenwood, NE (between Lincoln and Omaha)

After our stay along the Mississippi River south of Davenport, we drove over 300 miles across Iowa into Nebraska.

We crossed the Missouri River south of Omaha and drove about thirty miles to Pine Grove RV Park, just off the interstate between Omaha and Lincoln.  The park is right next to I-80 so there is a bit of highway noise.  And if you stay on a Friday night be aware there is a racetrack just to the north and Friday night is race night!

The next day we headed back to the north for a brief visit to Omaha’s riverfront area.   One of the first things that caught our attention was a large sculptor called “Monument to Labor.”  This 271 ton monument is a salute to the dedication and hard work of all those who built the city of Omaha.

In the photo above, the bridge in the background is the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.   It is a 3,000 foot pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska that opened in 2008.  The bridge is named for former senator Bob Kerrey (a Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in Vietnam) who secured much of the funding for the bridge.  The bridge is in an “S” shape to represent the slow flow of the Missouri River.

The curve of the bridge from the Omaha side

Mid-bridge at the state line (look familiar MonaLiza?)

A curve in the bridge looking from the Iowa side

The Omaha skyline from a park on the Iowa side of the river

Drive north along the river toward the airport and you pass a sign that is just a bit confusing, considering that you think you are in Nebraska and that Iowa is on the other side of the Missouri River just to the east.

As John was studying  Google maps, he noticed that the state line made a turn from the river, went north around a small lake, and returned to the river.  At first he thought Google had made an error in their map.  But more research revealed that they were correct!  This little area, surrounded by Nebraska, is part of Iowa!

The arrows point to the state line as it loops up and through the lake

Carter Lake is the only city in Iowa located west of the Missouri River. This is due to a flood that occurred in March 1877, which redirected the course of the river 1.25 miles to the southeast.  The remnants of the old river course, called Saratoga Bend, became an oxbow lake, Carter Lake, for which the town is named today.

After extensive litigation between Iowa and Nebraska, in 1892 the Supreme Court finally ruled that Carter Lake belonged to Iowa.   Although the general rule is that state boundaries follow gradual changes in the course of a river, the Court ruled that an exception exists when a river avulses ( a sudden cutting off of land by flood, currents, or change in course of a body of water) one of its bends.

Although Carter Lake was legally considered part of Council Bluffs, residents lacked the basic city services enjoyed by residents east of the Missouri but were still subject to city taxes. The community successfully seceded from Council Bluffs in the 1920s, intending to become part of Omaha, Nebraska but that city did not want to pay to extend sewers or water lines either. In 1930, Carter Lake was incorporated as its own municipality.

So, a little two square mile section of Iowa exists in Nebraska.  Who knew!

The next day we drove south to visit Lincoln, the state capitol of Nebraska and home of the main campus of the University of Nebraska.

Nebraska State Capitol Building

Nebraska is the only state in the United States with a unicameral legislature (one elected group – all other states have two).  Although this house is officially known simply as the “Legislature” and more commonly called the “Unicameral”, its members call themselves “senators”.

The legislative chamber

Prior to 1934 the state had a two house legislature.  Today the room formerly used by a House of Representatives is use primarily for ceremonies.

Decorative entrance to the former House of Representatives with our tour guide

Along some of the main hallways are busts of Nebraskans elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.  Buffalo Bill Cody and Father Flanagan (founder of Boys Town) are two we recognized.

Above one of the hallways are murals depicting scenes from the state’s history.

After the tour we took a very old elevator up to the observation deck on the top of the building where we had a great 360 view of Lincoln.

Later, we rode our bikes through the campus of the University of Nebraska.  It’s not the most impressive campus we have seen but the football stadium is impressive.

The East Entrance

The statue is ringed with the years NU won the national championship

We guess they’ve never been to a Penn State game!

For lunch we headed to the Haymarket section of the city, an old warehouse area renovated into shops and restaurants, for lunch at Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill, Nebraska’s first craft brew house.


After visiting the two largest cities in the state, we will now continue our journey west across the state for a visit to Scottsbluff.  More on that later . . .

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28 Responses to A Short Visit to Eastern Nebraska – Lincoln and Omaha

  1. Lenore says:

    The Capitol looks beautiful. We’ll certainly see it soon.

  2. raviolikid says:

    Interesting bit about Carter Lake!

  3. Thanks to that tidbit about Carter Lake, we missed that story.
    That capitol building is really amazing and glad you made it to the tour and learned more than we did.

    • Steve pointed out this morning that your header is a real nice evening shot, he liked it.
      And yes Pam, its fun to be in two states at the same time. Did you had time to go to Council Bluffs?

    • placestheygo says:

      John only stumbled on the Carter Lake thing as he was looking at the map. He was so sure Google made a mistake:)

      You had mentioned that you missed the tour when you were at the capitol. After seeing all your lovely photos, I knew I needed to learn more so we checked out the tour times. The stories behind all the mosiacs are very detailed…way too much for the blog.

  4. explorvistas says:

    That is very interesting about Carter Lake. I wonder how many other states have situations like that? I do know that Michigan has the Lost Peninsula near Toledo; the only way to get to it by road is through Ohio.

  5. That sure is a pretty bridge, love that it is pedestrian only.

    It must be kind of odd to live in that little finger of Iowa in Nebraska. What a funky little enclave!

  6. I love history info you share! Very interesting read.

  7. Jodee Gravel says:

    Beautiful bridge. I started to say to Bill that I wanted to look up why the state line was so weird, then remembered whose blog this is and knew all the information would be in the next paragraph! Great info as always 🙂 Too bad the other states don’t have a single legislative system……. And 300 miles in one day? It’s because you can’t wait to get to 395 huh?!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Jodee, you know there will be a lesson to be learned:) The unicameral was new to me, as well. We agree that other states should think about putting this in place as well. Think of the money that would be saved! Yes, it was a long day for us but there wasn’t any better place to stop so we pushed on:) We are excited to get to 395 but we do have to wait for partners and they have this wedding thing happening!!:)

  8. Laurel says:

    Your header photo is beautiful! So cool that it’s a pedestrian only bridge. That would be a fun walk. I had no idea that Nebraska had a unicameral legislature. Neither did Eric, which is amazing because he’s a walking encyclopedia of random facts. Now he’ll know the answer if the question comes up on Jeopardy, hehe.

  9. Marsha says:

    I love that first sculpture. It reminds me of the one we saw of all places Artesia, NM. It was the Derrick Floor & Oilfield Pioneer Monument. It was detailed just like the Monument to Labor. Both are so lovely.

    I see another curve(y) standing with one foot in Nebraska and the other in Iowa…lol

    That is so strange one state being located in another state. Dear Lord…what will they think of next?

    I have never heard of the word unicameral. How interesting. The Capitol looks lovely and the view awesome.

    Penn State…really? You mean The Ohio State University!

    Keep enjoying the good life!

    • placestheygo says:

      Unicameral was a new one for me, as well. Of course the history person knew about it!

      It was a little strange to go in and out of the two states by just turning corners.

      Haha! Yes, I’m sure John meant Ohio State:)

  10. Gay says:

    Nice stop over…love the flow of the bridge and the view from the observation deck.

  11. Sherry says:

    Great story about Carter Lake. Really interesting. Rough road for them. You two are sure making tracks!

  12. Pam says:

    Cool bridge and sculpture!

  13. P.J. says:

    You were less than 5 miles from our sticks and bricks house when you were in Omaha. Greenwood is often a stopping place for us. It is so interesting to see how others view our area. Thanks.
    I just started following your blog and looking forward to reading of your adventures.
    DH retired 2 days ago and in November we will be going full time. It’s an exciting time for us. I hope we meet up on the road someday.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for joining us, P.J.! We enjoyed spending a little time in your home town. It was our first time in that area. Congratulations to DH on his retirement. It sure is a great feeling:) We’ll look forward to see you on the road!

  14. P.J. says:

    Another note on the “Monument to Labor.” During the little known 2011 Missouri River Flood, the only piece of the man with the hammer (that you have a photo of) that was above the flood waters was the very top of the hammer. LOT and LOTS of water over it for 5.5 months.

    • placestheygo says:

      I actually took a photo of the photo showing the water level on the hammer. But the blog post was getting too long so that didn’t make the cut. Standing there it was hard to imagine that much water. I hope that doesn’t happen again.

  15. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the tour of the Nebraska capitol building. We had hoped to make it to Lincoln during our visit to Nebraska last fall, but we ran out of time. I love the mural and other art work. We were also quite impressed with Omaha and enjoyed walking across the pedestrian bridge. It’s so nice that both cities are reclaiming their riverfronts.

  16. LuAnn says:

    This was like a blast from the past for me. I lived in Nebraska for a short time many, many years ago and another lifetime. Love that bridge. I seem to recall having a photo with one foot in Iowa and one in Nebraska as well. 🙂

  17. Greg Schulte says:

    You are correct in that there was much litigation between Iowa and Nebraska over the fate of Carter Lake but what you may not have known is that Nebraska came out favorable in the litagation and therefor Carter Lake is part of Iowa ;>). It’s too bad that there wasn’t a game going on when you passed by Memorial Stadium you would enjoyed it.

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