Over 100 years ago when pioneers began traveling west, the Platte River was a well-known body of water. At that time, the water levels were much slightly higher than they average today, but this river was legendary for a bad reason – quicksand. In some areas, the quicksand was deep enough to swallow entire wagons and horses. The water is shallow today, but the river is still one of the most well-known in the state of Nebraska. The Platte River State Park is dedicated to this river and its history. Located four miles west of Louisville, Nebraska, the Platte River State Park is situated on the steep bluffs overlooking the river’s valley. Most of the park’s 418 acres of land are forested. There are two observation towers, of which the taller measures 85 feet high. Visitors are welcome to climb up the towers and enjoy the view of the Platte River and landscape below. This region is somewhat different from neighboring areas in the respect that the hills are steeper, there are more trees and of course there is a river, which is responsible for the lush greenery.
Camping is allowed at this park, but unlike most other campgrounds, tents and recreational vehicles are not allowed. There are 21 full-service cabins located on the premises that can be rented with advance notice year-round. During the summer months, there are an additional 31 camping-style cabins with more open-air screen windows. These cabins also fill up quickly, so advance reservations are recommended. Another unique feature about the Platte River State Park’s camping offerings are the tepees. Designed to look similar to authentic olden-day Indian tepees, these structures have a wood floor and cloth sides. Fires are not permitted too close to the tepees. It is especially important to reserve these popular novelty accommodations far in advance; they are usually occupied nearly every night.
Recreation is also plentiful in the park. There is an outdoor swimming pool that is open seasonally during the warmer months. Tennis courts are available year-round. An archery range is also open to visitors. Nearly 10 miles of scenic hiking trails are found throughout the park. Horses are allowed on the trails and there is a stable owned by the park that allows visitors to rent a horse for trail rides. All trail rides with rented horses are guided. Fishing is another popular activity. The lake in this park is fairly small, encompassing about a 1-acre area. Fishing is fairly good here, as the lake is stocked frequently. Paddleboats can be rented for a small fee and taken on the lake. Visitors are also advised to avoid bringing their own boats, since they are not allowed on the lake. Since the lake is so small, motor-powered boats would put too many pollutants into the water, which is why paddleboats are the only permissible boat.
The Platte River State Park also has a small restaurant that is open during the summer. A meeting facility is available year-round for rent, appropriate for gatherings of 150 or less. Also located in the park is a visitor center that houses many exhibits. Classes for ceramics and leather work are offered frequently by professional teachers. An outdoor theater in the park hosts campfire programs each year during the summer. Features that are accessible year-round are the picnic table and grill areas and the ball field. Picnic areas are plentiful and scattered throughout the entire park; there are over 80 grills on the premises too.
When visiting the Platte River State Park, bring a good tick repellent for visits during the months between May and September. Trail rides are one of the activities where visitors are exposed to ticks the most. Avoid hiking away from the trails, as rattlesnakes also live in this area. They prefer rocky locations and have especially been known to inhabit the bluffs. Wading in the river is also discouraged. The entirety of the Platte River has unpredictable spots where quicksand are present. Bug spray is also helpful when hiking near the river, since bugs are thicker near bodies of water. The park’s contact information is listed below.
Platte River State Park
14421 346th St.
Louisville, NE 68037-3001