Nebraska encompasses the Great Plains, the Sandhills, and the Panhandle’s dramatic rock formations. In addition to its soaring state capitol, Lincoln is a vibrant university town. Omaha boasts the Durham Museum, housed in an old railroad depot and honors the state’s pioneering history.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT NEBRASKA
- Capital City: Lincoln
- Largest City: Omaha
- Nickname: The Cornhusker State
- Statehood: March 1, 1867; 37th state
- Population (as of 2020): 1,961,504
- Abbreviation: NE
- State bird: western meadowlark
- State flower: goldenrod
- Total Size Of The State: 177,358 sq mi (200,356 km2)
Archaeologists know Nebraska has been inhabited for at least 13,500 years due to spear points found there. Following the arrival of the first inhabitants, Native American tribes developed, including the Cheyenne, Lakota, Dakota Sioux, Omaha, Oto, Pawnee, Sauk, and Ponca. Nebraska is still home to the Omaha, Ponca, Winnebago, Oglala, and Santee Sioux tribes.
Beginning in the 1500s, French and Spanish explorers attempted to claim the area but left much unexplored. Finally, the United States purchased Louisiana from France in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Covered wagons crossed the rough Oregon Trail on which the first settlers arrived. During the Civil War, the Homestead Act offered 160 acres of land in exchange for five years of farming and building. In 1867, the Nebraska Territory became a state after its population grew rapidly.
Why Does It Have That Name?
The phrase “flat water” in the state’s name refers to the Platte River, which runs through it.
Cornhuskers, the football team name at the University of Nebraska, gave the state its nickname. What does that have to do with husking corn? Because so much of it is grown in our state! The state produces the third most corn in the country.
Geographic Features and Landforms
South Dakota borders Nebraska in the north, Iowa and Missouri in the east, Kansas in the south, Colorado in the south and west, and Wyoming in the west. In addition, dissected Till Plains and Great Plains are two major geographical zones in the region.
The Dissected Till Plains covers Nebraska’s eastern quarter. At the end of the last Ice Age, glaciers melted in this region, leaving a mixture of sand, gravel, and boulders. As a result, there are low hills and deposits of windblown sediment, called loess, in the area today.
The rest of the state is covered by the Great Plains. Flat, with some canyons and valleys and some lakes and wetlands, this region is flat. Panorama Point is the highest point in the area. Do you like dunes?
There are more mounds in Nebraska than anywhere else in North America. About 20,000 square miles of dunes make up the Sand Hills. Badlands, an area of sandstone cut into strange shapes by the wind, are another unusual site in the far northwest.
The Natural World
There are still some bison roaming in north-central Nebraska’s Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, although they were nearly wiped out in the 1800s. In addition to pronghorns (the second fastest land mammals after cheetahs! ), antelopes, coyotes, rabbits, and prairie dogs live in the area.
The state is home to more than 400 species of birds, including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, violet-green swallows, and western meadowlarks (the state bird).
Nebraska is home to snapping turtles and bullsnakes, but the shy, slender glass lizard is rarely seen. The Sand Hills are home to rare Blanding turtles. In addition, it is home to a variety of amphibians, including American bullfrogs, prairie toads, and western tiger salamanders.
Nebraska’s state tree is the eastern cottonwood, often found near bodies of water. Black walnut, red oak, slippery elm, ponderosa pine, and boxelder maple are also widely distributed. Wildflowers in the state include star cucumber, chicory, pink primrose, wild blue flax, and leopard lily.
Nebraska’s fertile soil benefits from an underground water supply known as the High Plains Aquifer. The area also has petroleum and gas resources, which is part of why it is called the “breadbasket of America.”
Some Fun Facts About Nebraska
- Several notable Nebraskans were born there, including former President Gerald Ford, former Vice President Dick Cheney, philanthropist and businessman Warren Buffett, tennis player Andy Roddick, actress Hilary Swank, and dancer Fred Astaire.
- The University of Nebraska State Museum displays an enormous mammoth skeleton. It is called Archie.
- About 12 million years ago, a volcanic event killed animals such as saber-tooth tigers, raccoon dogs, and giraffe-like camels. However, their fossilized remains can still be seen in Nebraska’s Ashfall Fossil Beds.
- For pioneers traveling to the west, Chimney Rock in Scotts Bluff served as a landmark. This natural wonder was sculpted by erosion from volcanic ash and clay.