Natural Resources, School of
Date of this Version
Rocks & Minerals, volume 55, number 3, MAY/JUNE 1980, pp. 93-96.
Ash Hollow Creek is an intermittent stream forming a southern tributary to the North Platte River. The creek flows only in response to precipitation from locally heavy thunderstorms or to heavy runoff from melting snow in the spring. Western Nebraska has a semi-arid climate and receives less than 20 inches of rainfall per year. Vegetation in the park and surrounding area is typical of the short grass prairie of the Great Plains. Native short grasses grow abundantly on undisturbed tablelands, valley sides, and along principal flood plains of streams and rivers. Prickly pear, barrel cactus, yucca and sagebrush are common but are more abundant in areas underlain by sand or sand and gravel. The dominant tree in the park area is the mountain cedar. The trees on the floor of Ash Hollow Creek valley include white ash, hackberry, and cottonwood, while cottonwood and willow are dominant along the channel of the North Platte. There is a tremendous variety of animal life in the park; small mammals, many varieties of birds, and reptiles are well represented in the area. Fishing in the North Platte and in nearby lakes and reservoirs is often excellent. Ash Hollow has a long history of human occupation. American Indians roamed the park area for thousands of years before the arrival of European, African, and Asian settlers. Animal kill sites, camp sites, and shelters reveal that the valley was the home of several distinct cultures of Indians during this period. Mter the first European and American explorers worked their way along the North Platte, a flow of settlers moved along the Platte River following the Oregon trail and often crossed the divide between the South and North Platte Rivers at Ash Hollow. While the terrain is rugged in the park area, the valley of Ash Hollow Creek was one of the few spots along the North Platte within a day's travel of the South Platte where wagons could descend to the valley floor with relative safety and where water and shelter were available to travelers and their animals. Along most of the remainder of the south side of the North Platte nearly vertical escarpments of as much as 100 feet made wagon descent virtually impossible. Today a modern highway allows a traveler to make the journey between the two rivers in a few minutes instead of a long, difficult, day-long wagon trip. The valley of Ash Hollow Creek now has an improved campground offering shelter and rest to visitors.