Originally a safe haven for Overland Trail travelers, Pony Express riders, and gold prospectors, Fort Kearny established in 1848, is now a state historical park preserved by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Visitors to the park can explore reconstructed buildings, including the stockade, parade grounds, powder magazine, and blacksmith/carpenter shop, and explore exhibits telling the story of the fort.
Established in 1848, Fort Kearny was the first fort built to protect travelers on the Oregon-California Trail. It also served as a home station for Pony Express riders and Pawnee scouts, it was an important stage station, and it sheltered crews building the Union Pacific Railroad.
Fort Kearny was discontinued as a military post in 1871; buildings were torn down, and the land was opened for homesteading. The Fort Kearny Memorial Association purchased the land in the 1920s, and by 1959, Fort Kearny was declared to be a state historical park.
The Interpretive Center houses exhibits on history of the fort, its uses over the years and those who lived there. Visitors may view an 18-minute video about the fort and its history. During sandhill crane migration, the Interpretive Center doubles as an information center for crane viewers.
After the Fort Kearny Memorial Association purchased the land where the fort had been, an archaeological exploration was conducted to locate building sites and other features of the area. Several buildings, including the stockade, parade grounds, powder magazine and carpenter-blacksmith shop, have since been rebuilt.
Living history demonstrations are held periodically during the summer months.
Hiking, Biking, and Nature Trail
The unique Fort Kearny hike-bike trail begins at the camping area and extends for 1.8 miles to Bassway Strip Wildlife Management Area and 13.2 miles to Cottonmill Park in Kearney. The paved trail crosses both channels of the Platte River and was once a segment of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad. Beautiful views of the Platte Valley can be enjoyed from these trails. A trail map is available at the Fort Kearny SHP visitor center.
Along the trail you can enjoy watching the many species of birds and wildlife at the covered viewing gazebo. The trail also provides a covered picnic shelter which makes an excellent stop along the trail to rest and have a picnic.
Fort Kearny State Historical Park is an excellent place to start your viewing of sandhill cranes during spring migration. The interpretive center is open daily during peak migration and serves as an information center for crane viewers. The bridges over the Platte River at the nearby Fort Kearny State Recreation Area are a popular place to observe the cranes at dusk and dawn.
Fishing, camping, hiking, swimming and no-wake boating are available on adjoining Fort Kearny State Recreation Area. Picnicking is available at both sites..
A park entry permit is required and may be purchased at the park, statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors or in advance of your arrival online. Daily permits are $6 for residents and $12 for non-residents. Additionally, the Interpretive Center charges an admission of $4 for adults and $1 for children under the age of 13. There is no admission for children under 3.