Homestead National Historical Park
OVERVIEW: About this Audio-Described Brochure
Welcome to the audio-described version of Homestead National Historical Park's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two sided color brochure that Homestead National Historical Park's visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about thirty three minutes which we have divided into twenty three sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Sections one through eleven cover the front of the brochure and include information about the Homestead Act. Sections twelve through twenty three cover the back of the brochure which consists of information for visiting the park, including a map and contact information. Other highlights include the tallgrass prairie.
OVERVIEW: Homestead National Historical Park
Homestead National Historical Park located in Nebraska, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The 200 acre park is situated four miles west of Beatrice, Nebraska. This park, established in 1936 tells the Homesteading story of America. Each year, thousands of visitors come to enjoy the unique experiences that only can be had at Homestead National Historical Park. We invite you to explore the park's rich history. Take a hike through the tallgrass prairie and experience the sounds and smells that bring the site to life. For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, audio description hand held devices are available at the Heritage Center. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.
OVERVIEW: Front Side of Brochure
The front of the brochure includes modern photographs, historic photographs, and historic posters, with the top two thirds featuring images with limited text.
IMAGE and TEXT: An invitation to the world
DESCRIPTION: The front of the brochure displays a photo of the sunrise. The sky takes up the top two thirds of the image, and is a pale pink with hints of orange. The clouds appear lavender, and the light emitted is low enough that the prairie landscape and cluster of trees appear dark and silhouetted. The Homestead Heritage Center, a building with a triangular peaked roof meant to represent the earth being pushed up by a plow, is on the right side of the image.
For over a century the Homestead Act fed people’s desire for land and a home of their own. It materialized an American dream.
Today’s immigrants from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, and elsewhere share a dream with the homesteaders who came to America’s interior in the post Civil War era. Like today, it was a roiling, uncertain time of rapid social and economic change; migrants leaving northeastern factories; formerly enslaved people leaving Southern plantations; sharecroppers leaving worn-out fields. Many headed west. All acted on the promise of a dream: mobility and property for people who had none, or who wanted more.
IMAGE and TEXT: New U.S. citizens
DESCRIPTION: A Photo depicts a diverse crowd of various ages, genders, and ethnicities, at an outdoor ceremony. The attendees are all dressed in formal attire. A side angle of the front portion of a black stage can be seen on the left of the photo. On the right portion of the photo, rows of people in metal folding chairs are facing the stage. There is a small grassy area between the stage and chairs, where a new citizen and a female judge stand in front of an American flag. Their bodies are angled slightly away from the camera.
The new citizen is holding his certificate of citizenship. The bottom of the photo shows the back of several heads facing the new citizen and the judge. To the left, there is a Park Ranger observing the festivities, and a man in a short sleeved shirt and a tie holding papers.
The background shows a dense row of green trees. A temporary tent canopy can be seen in the distance, directly in front of the trees. A crowd of people surround the tent and the walkway. The top right corner of the image shows just a sliver of the Farm Implement Room, a cream colored brick building.
Over 60 new US citizens are sworn in at a June 2014 ceremony at Homestead National Historical Park. More than 500,000 people achieve US citizenship annually.
IMAGES and TEXT: Campaign signage
IMAGE 1 of 2: Claiming homestead sign
DESCRIPTION: This image depicts a historic advertisement aimed at encouraging soldiers of the war of 1861 to homestead to Nebraska. The background of the ad is beige and the text is black. Lands for the Landless! Homes for the Homeless!! can be seen in large serif font, that take up the top one fourth of the image. Nebraska can be seen in large serif font near the bottom. The remainder of the image gives the details on what is available, and who to contact.
The serif fonts of each section vary in size. Soldiers is in the second largest font and can be seen at the center of the image. Text: Lands for the Landless! Homes for the Homeless! Millions of Acres almost donated to the brave pioneers of the world by the generous government of America. Soldiers of the war of 1861, come forward and take your Homesteads near some Railroad in Nebraska. For particulars, address J.H. Noteware, State Sup't of Immigration, Omaha, Neb.
CREDIT: Library of Congress, American Memory
IMAGE 2 of 2: Cornucopia sign
DESCRIPTION: This rectangular poster entices people to come to California.
The overall color scheme for this rectangular poster is light orange, dark brown, yellow and white. On an orange background and beginning at the top right and running diagonally to the poster's bottom left is a yellow cornucopia or horn of plenty. Located in the lower brown part of the poster, the horn's open mouth is filled with an assortment of fruits, grains and flowers. In alternating brown and white colors are the headlines, "California, The Cornucopia of the World", and, "Room Millions Immigrants".
The dark brown background of the bottom half spouts alternating white, orange and yellow headlines of "43,795,000 Acres of Government Lands Untaken", "Railroad & Private Land for a Million Farmers", "A Climate for Health & Wealth Without Cyclones or Buzzards".
CREDIT: Huntington Library
In the 1800s and early 1900s, promise and hyperbole traveled via print media like handbills––but also by rail. The Great Pacific, Great Northern, and Milwaukee railroads launched campaigns featuring agricultural display trains. The cornucopia (horn of plenty) theme dominated lavish, mobile assemblages of foods and dazzling state agricultural fairs. It also appeared in domestic arts such as embroidery.
IMAGE and TEXT: Farm journals
DESCRIPTION: A black and white drawing with a collage of a variety of farm animals on a light tan background. In the upper left corner is a circular inset with two sheep. The top one third of the image is six horses standing on a grassy field, with one running. Below the horses are three cattle in a pasture. Below the cattle are five sheep on grass. Below the sheep are three hogs that are separated from a man with a hat by a wooden fence. Aligned vertically next to the cattle, sheep, and hogs are chickens and a turkey. The right and bottom of the sketch is bordered by foreign text.
CREDIT: Wisconsin Historical Society
Farm journals, flyers, and ads recruited immigrants from East European nations beset by crop failure and depressed agricultural markets in the eighteen seventies and eighties.
IMAGE and TEXT: Homestead claims
DESCRIPTION: This image depicts a historic advertisement aimed at encouraging formerly enslaved, Black American Citizens to homestead to Kansas. The background of the ad is white and the text is black. Ho for Kansas can be seen in large serif font, that take up the top one fifth of the image. The center portion of the words is underlined. The remainder of the photo gives the details of the date of the departure, and the destination.
The serif fonts of each section vary in size. The date of departure is in the second largest font and can be seen at the center of the image. Text: Ho for Kansas! Brethren, Friends, & Fellow Citizens: I feel thankful to inform you that the Real Estate and Homestead Association will leave here the 15th of April, 1878, In pursuit of Homes in the Southwestern lands of America, at transportation Rates, cheaper than ever was known before. For full information inquire of Benj. Singleton, better known as old Pap. No. 5 North Front Street. Beware of Speculators and Adventurers, as it is a dangerous thing to fall in their hands. Nashville, Tenn, March 18, 1878
CREDIT: Library of Congress
Benjamin Singleton urged the formerly enslaved to file claims in the state of Kansas. Officials elsewhere encouraged Civil War veterans to return to their home states to homestead.
IMAGE and TEXT: Patent
DESCRIPTION: A horizontal semi-formal sepia tone photographic documentation of a man and woman standing in front of a small wooden two window cabin.
On the right side of the photograph is a woman dressed in a long skirt with white apron and long sleeves with her right hand extended to receive her land patent documentation. On her right stands a bearded man dressed in a long overcoat who extends his left hand to give her the packet. A horse at the left side of the cabin awaits its rider.
A California woman receives her patent from the land agent. A substantial percentage of homestead patents went to women.
IMAGE and TEXT: Emblazoned seed sack
DESCRIPTION: A tan seed sack is aligned approximately 10 degrees to the right. There is a logo in the center. In the center of the logo is a golden yellow cob of corn, aligned vertically. Around the cob is a yellow cross shaped outline with 45 degree angles in place of 90 degree angles. Above the cob, outside of the yellow line are the words Drouth Resistant in green text. Above the words are another green cross shaped outline with 45 degree angles in place of 90 degree angles. To the right of the cob are the words Roots Yager’s Hybrid with a green image of roots. To the right of the green image, outside of the yellow line are the words Wind Resistant, aligned parallel to the cob, read from top to bottom, with the green outline to the right of the words. Below the cob, outside of the yellow line are the words Yields More, with the green outline below. To the left of the cob are the words Roots Common Corn inside the yellow outline. Between the yellow and green lines are the words Grows Better written vertically in green, read from bottom to top.
Above the logo in the center is the word Yager’s in red with a green outline. Below the logo in green text is Makes you Money. In larger red text Hybrid Corn. Below in green text, Yager See & Nursery Co. Fremeont, NEBR.
Emblazoned with huge letters and line drawings in primary colors, an oversize canvas seed sack targets homesteading farmers’ priorities. In telegraphic style, it promises corn that is weather resistant, high-yielding, deep-rooted, and ”Makes You Money.” It held about 50 pounds, or 93,000 seeds; in keeping with the scale of midwestern farming.
IMAGES and TEXT: Homesteaders took risks, found America
IMAGE 1 of 2: Free homestead land poster
DESCRIPTION: A Square, tan poster with image of a man dressed in bibbed overalls and a white shirt with rolled up sleeves. He is wearing a broad brimmed hat and gloves and his arms are full and overflowing with a loose sheaf of golden grain. There is an orange background behind a map of the northwestern states. In the foreground are large, bold black capital lettering with the following message: Montana Free Homestead Land.
CREDIT: Montana Historical Society
IMAGE 2 of 2: Bissie family
DESCRIPTION: A Mother with her children of various ages stand in a field. They are all dressed in working clothes with the girls wearing dresses and the boys dressed in trousers with suspenders and porkpie hats
CREDIT: Library of Congress Lewis Wickes Hines, 1909
Twenty-five thousand Europeans, most of them German, crossed the Atlantic in the first half of 1862. The precise number of immigrants who followed with the intention to homestead, or how many first lived and worked in the cities before they caught “land fever,” is unknown.
By 1870 one-fourth the population of Nebraska was foreign born. By the turn of the century over two million Anglo-Americans, Swedes, Italians, Danes, Finlanders, Hollanders, Icelanders, Hungarians, Russians, Bohemians, Poles, and Ukrainians had relocated to the Great Plains, homesteading’s heart. ”Free land,” but also civil freedom, the perception of unlimited resources, independence, and a chance for free education drove the “briskness in immigration.”
Territories and states coined names like ”The Treasure State” (for Montana, which had rich mineral deposits), enhancing their appeal. The Exoduster movement, led by Benjamin Singleton, a carpenter and undertaker from Tennessee, promoted a near Utopian vision of homesteading as a way for former slaves to get land and homes in Kansas. Many African Americans, including women, managed to file and ”prove up” (fulfill legal requirements) on claims.
Homesteading states mounted booster campaigns to entice emigrants. Women from age 21, including those who had been deserted, could take ”free” land. Many did. While homesteading, some worked as domestics to earn cash. Karolina Miller Krause, an Austrian immigrant, did field work, usually considered men’s work, to help buy a farm.
Foreign language advertisements and reports printed in the US and distributed in Eastern Europe, where crop failures led to famine in the 1870s, promoted the idea of an American land of plenty. One Polish language article published in 1875 described a rail tour through bountiful farmlands. The Bissie family, from Poland, found work on American farms.
Despite immigrants’ practical skills and willingness to work, not everyone welcomed them. Today’s Twitter feeds could be responding to an opinion the New York Times published in 1907: “The opposition to the present immigrant is uneconomic, illogical, and unAmerican.”
1915 was a “miracle” year for homesteaders. Abundant rain, bumper wheat harvests, and high grain prices (owed to the Great War in Europe) caused Great Plains economies to boom. Government posters declared “Food Will Win the War!” But as the war ended, corn and wheat prices dropped. Economic depression settled in, as did severe drought. Many homesteaders abandoned suddenly unprofitable claims. Yet even in the 1930s, America’s bitterest decade, homesteaders moved westward. Undeterred, or made desperate by the Great Depression, they filed new claims.
Cycles of boom and bust, soaring hope and deep despair, would temper but not wholly destroy homesteading’s promise. Many failed to ”prove up” their claims. Many more, across 30 states, from diverse national, cultural, and economic strata, faced drought, prairie fires, hailstorms, tornadoes, grasshopper plagues, and often crushing loneliness. They persevered.
In 1976, the US Congress repealed the Homestead Act. Over 123 years, homesteading gave hope to many. It offered immigrants a road map that took them from serfdom to citizen and property ownership. It offered the nation’s own disenfranchised—the formerly enslaved, veterans of civil and world wars, emigrants from northeastern factory towns, and southern sharecroppers, men and women a like, a chance.
OVERVIEW: Back Side of Brochure
The back of the brochure includes modern and historic photographs, a timeline, map, and information for visiting the park.
IMAGES: Wild lands to farmlands
IMAGE 1 of 13: Background landscape image
DESCRIPTION: A collage of photos staggered over a background of green prairie grass on rolling hills. Two trees appear on the distant horizon against a medium blue sky.
CREDIT: Brad Mangas Photography
IMAGE 2 of 13: Cattle pulling
DESCRIPTION: A Black and white photo of a yoked team of horned oxen as they pull their loaded wagon through a sea of knee high grass.
CAPTION: The homesteaders
CREDIT: Harvey T. Dunn, 1908, Private Collection
IMAGE 3 of 13: Men standing in line
DESCRIPTION: A blurry black and white historic photo of men waiting in line. Some are wearing hats and many are holding parcels of belongings.
CREDIT: Library of Congress
IMAGE 4 of 13: Alice and Harvey Craig
DESCRIPTION: Black and white full length photo of a woman, arms crossed and wearing a knee length dress with a white, rounded collar. Beside her is a man dressed in bibbed overalls and coat wearing a wide brimmed hat.
CAPTION: Alice and Harvey Craig, Colorado homesteaders, 1952
CREDIT: Alice McDonald Craig
IMAGE 5 of 13: Map drawing
DESCRIPTION: This is a map yellowed with age and showing the western two thirds of the United States and multiple routes for travel.
CAPTION: The American West CA. Eighteen sixties
IMAGE 6 of 13: Boarding train
DESCRIPTION: A painting of a train with smoke billowing from the engine as it sits on the tracks waiting for passengers to board. The scene reveals many people, a depot and other buildings close to the railroad track. The landscape depicts a small pond with rolling hills in the background.
CAPTION: Railroads moved homesteaders westward, Currier and Ives, Across the continent, 1868
CREDIT: Philadelphia Museum of Art
IMAGE 7 of 13: Abraham Lincoln
DESCRIPTION: A Formal, oval shaped black and white, head and shoulders photo of Abraham Lincoln.
CAPTION: Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, 1865
CREDIT: Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery
IMAGE 8 of 13: Chrisman sisters’
DESCRIPTION: A historic black and white photo of four women in long dresses and jackets standing in front of a sod house. Horses frame both sides of the picture.
CAPTION: Chrisman sisters’ Nebraska homestead
CREDIT: Butcher Collection/Nebraska Historical Society
IMAGE 9 of 13: Daniel Freeman
DESCRIPTION: A photo of an older man with a white beard and black hat dressed in dark clothes with a leather strap crossing his body. He has a vertical rifle on his left side and a knife in his belt.
CAPTION: Daniel Freeman
IMAGE 10 of 13: Building overlay in the landscape image
DESCRIPTION: A photo of a small homestead with barn, house and corrals nestled at the base of the hill.
CREDIT: Russell Lee (Detail), 1940 Library of Congress
IMAGE 11 of 13: Woman at Pie Town
DESCRIPTION: A full length, side profile photo of woman looking at the camera. She wears a blue head wrap, tan jacket and dark gray pleated skirt.
CAPTION: Woman at Pie Town, New Mexico, barbecue
CREDIT: Russell Lee (Detail), 1940 Library of Congress
IMAGE 12 of 13: Two people holding image
DESCRIPTION: A photo of two people. The woman with long blonde hair holds a historical oval framed black and white photo of a man with a heavy mustache. She is dressed in modern clothing. The man standing beside her is wearing a large black cowboy hat and holding some horse tack. There is a white picket fence in the background.
CAPTION: Descendants hold portraits of their homesteader ancestors
IMAGE 13 of 13: One person holding framed image
DESCRIPTION: A young smiling, blonde woman wearing glasses is holding a portrait of a woman with dark hair attired in a dress. The portrait is in a very large, ornate rectangular frame.
CAPTION: Descendants hold portraits of their homesteader ancestors.
TIMELINE: Public domain lands spur debate
1785: Public Land Survey System, first proposed by Thomas Jefferson, is established to divide public domain lands
1800: Land Act reduces the size of a unit of public land from 640 acres (one square mile) to 320 acres (half-parcel)
1803: Louisiana Purchase from France adds 800,000 square miles, doubling the public domain
1830: Indian Removal Act adds 40,000 square miles to public domain lands east of the Mississippi
1846: Oregon Treaty with Britain sets northern border of US; adds 28,000 square miles to public domain
1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with Mexico adds 528,000 square miles to public domain (Texas excluded)
1848–52: Free Soilers support free homesteading and oppose slavery in new territories
1849: California gold rush
1850s: The fight in the House and Senate over public lands builds to a crescendo. Many decisions turn on whether slavery will be extended to the western territories
1853: Gadsden Purchase of parts of Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico adds 123,000 square miles to public domain
1860: Abraham Lincoln elected President
1861: Civil War begins
1862: Homestead Act offers 160 acres of public land free to homesteaders; Pacific Railway and Morrill Land-Grant College acts
1863: Daniel Freeman and other homesteaders begin to file claims, mostly in the Great Plains states and Nebraska and Dakota territories
TIMELINE: Populating the land
1865: Civil War ends; Reconstruction in South begins to gain momentum.
1866: Congress extends homesteading to the five public land states in the South––Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas
1877: Racism, terrorism, and the enactment of Black Codes and Pig Laws cause freed people in southern states to migrate North and West. Many seek free lands and greater tolerance in Kansas, a Union stronghold during the Civil War. They become known as ”Exodusters”
1889: Oklahoma Territory opens to homesteaders with a ”land run.” Thousands join the frenzied sprint to stake claims
ca. 1901: First 4 H club
1902: Land Reclamation Act, to provide water to arid and semiarid West and Southwest
TIMELINE: Peaks and valleys
Nineteen hundred and one to nineteen hundred and twenty: Homesteading peaks; Land Office issues over eight hundred thousand patents
1913: Willa Cather publishes Prairie Trilogy
Nineteen hundred and fourteen to nineteen hundred and eighteen: World War I; Congress passes 11 amendments to the Homestead Act to help returning solider and sailors start a new life once back home.
1929: Stock Market crashes
Nineteen hundred and thirty to nineteen hundred and forty: Land Office issues 40,000 homestead patents, many in the Southwest
Nineteen hundred and thirty four to nineteen hundred and thirty six: Dust Bowl
1936: Homestead National Monument of America established; Rural Electrification Act
IMAGE and TIMELINE: Resurgence and repeal
DESCRIPTION: A map of the United States defining the current 50 states. There is an outline of the continental United States with inserts of both Alaska and Hawaii in the lower left hand portion of the map. The states shaded light cream represent the states that have no homesteaded land in them. The states that are shaded a burnt orange contain land that was homesteaded. White text at the center of the map says Homesteading states. two thirds of the map is covered in orange representing the 30 homesteading states. Most of the 20 cream colored states had no available land and are primarily on the east coast with the exception of Florida. The West part of the map is orange with the exception of Texas.
Nineteen hundred thirty nine to nineteen hundred forty five: World War II
1946: Department of Agriculture establishes Farmers Home Administration
1948: Center-pivot irrigation delivers water to crop fields
ca. 1950: Manufacture of most horse-drawn farm equipment ceases
1956: Congress passes Interstate Highway Act, allowing faster transport of farm goods to market
Nineteen hundred and sixty to nineteen hundred and eighty six: Public lands in Alaska opened to homesteaders
1976: Congress repeals Homestead Act in lower 48 states
1986: Congress repeals Homestead Act in Alaska
1988: Last homestead patent issued
IMAGES and TEXT: Explore Homestead
IMAGE 1 of 3: Cabin
DESCRIPTION: [A colored photo of the Palmer-Epard Cabin, an aged, white and brown log and mortar structure with two visible windows, one on the top floor and one on the bottom floor. The cabin is surrounded by green cut grass against a cloudy blue sky. Two rusty brown farm implements are stationed in the foreground.]
CAPTION: Palmer-Epard Cabin
IMAGE 2 of 3: Coneflower
DESCRIPTION: [A close-up colored photo of a Gray headed coneflower at the center, while six coneflower buds surround it. Its petals are yellow and droopy, and the green cone sticks up, pointing towards the sky. The background includes taller, green leaves and stems of other plants.]
CAPTION: Gray headed coneflower
IMAGE 3 of 3: School
DESCRIPTION: [A colored photo of the Freeman School on a cloudy day. It is a small brick building with a light tan roof and chimney, four windows with red shutters, three on its side and one in the front, and a flag pole with the American flag. The school is surrounded by trimmed green grass and rolling hills, and there's a hand water pump stationed to the left of the school.]
CAPTION: Freeman School
Homestead National Monument preserves the T shaped, 160-acre claim that Daniel Freeman filed on January 1, 1863. It includes the school that some of Freeman’s children attended, a typical eastern Nebraska cabin, and 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie.
The park is open daily except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. Hours vary seasonally; check our website.
Start at the Heritage Center, which offers information, exhibits, a bookstore, and a film. Visit the Palmer-Epard Cabin, see pioneer farm implements in the Education Center, and walk the trails through tallgrass prairie. Enjoy the Heritage and Education centers’ picnic areas Check our website for special events and ranger led talks. Call ahead for group tours.
TEXT: For your safety
• Stay on trails.
• Watch for poison ivy and nettles.
• Check for ticks.
• Beware of steep drop offs near Cub Creek.
• Fires and smoking are prohibited.
• Pets must be leashed, and are not allowed in buildings or on trails.
• Bicycles and vehicles are prohibited on trails.
• For firearms regulations check the website.
Federal law prohibits removing natural or historic features.
Emergencies call 9 1 1
MAP: Homestead National Historical Park
DESCRIPTION: The map is directionally situated with the north being at the top of the page. The map shows the two major roads leading into the Park. Highway 4 starts near the southeast corner of the map, and curves around to end at the northwest corner of the map. The Heritage Center and Palmer Epard Cabin are south of Hwy 4 on the Eastern boundary of the park. 89th street runs North and South and serves as the Western boundary of the park. The Education Center is slightly East of 89th street and south of highway 4. The Freeman School is just West of 89th Street and a little North of highway 4. The map shows the natural resources, and buildings on the grounds of Homestead National Historical Park. The center of the map features a brighter portion of the map that resembles a reverse T. The 3 miles worth of walking trails are featured as perforated lines.
IMAGES and TEXT: Tallgrass prairie reborn
IMAGE 1 of 3: Tallgrass
DESCRIPTION: [A horizontal photo of a field of yellow golden rod, the Nebraska state flower, which appears in the forefront of the photo. In the other half, there's a meadow of yellow and patchy brown short grasses. Surrounding the field are bunches of green trees, all against a cloudy blue sky.]
CREDIT: NPS Mel Mann
IMAGE 2 of 3: Small map
DESCRIPTION: [A thematic map of the United States depicting the location of various grasses in the central region of the United States, also known as the Tallgrass Prairie Reborn. There are three parts: Shortgrass (shaded yellow), Mixed grass (shaded light green), and Tallgrass (shaded dark green). The shortgrass covers western parts of central states starting with Montana, and making a curve down to Texas. To the east is mixed grass, covering states starting with North Dakota and going down to Texas. Finally, to the east of mixed grass is tallgrass, which also covers parts of North Dakota, makes a sharp right to Illinois, then down to Texas.]
IMAGE 3 of 3: Meadowlark
DESCRIPTION: [A colored photo of a standing Western Meadowlark, the Nebraska state bird. It has a round body with a short, stubby tail. Its back is primarily brown, with a yellow chest, and a prominent black V shaped necklace and white outer tail feathers. Its head is gray with a black stripe horizontal to its black eye. Its beak is open, as if its chirping.]
CAPTION: Western meadowlark
CREDIT: Sivaprasad Radhakrishnan
Between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains are remnants of the grassy expanse once called the Great American Desert. Foot-high buffalo grass and blue grama grasses covered the dry area east of the Rockies. Needle and thread grass and little bluestem dominated the middle belt.
The easternmost lands of the lower Missouri valley, where rainfall is higher, are home to the tallgrass prairie. Its big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, and switchgrass rise 8 or 9 feet tall, with roots that reach 15 to 25 feet down into the soil. Plants native to the tallgrass prairie are tough. They survive grazing, fire, and mowing.
By the 1930s successive droughts and overgrazing had destroyed much of the tallgrass prairie in eastern Nebraska. Plants native to the more arid prairies (western wheatgrass, blue grama, and buffalo grass) invaded.
In 1939 the National Park Service began restoring the tallgrass prairie here by planting grass seed from a nearby farm. Restoration continues today with methods like controlled burning. Burning in spring, before non native grasses begin to grow, incinerates dead plant debris. This allows sun and rain to penetrate and releases nutrients that promote growth and seed yields.
Not just tall grasses but also other plants and flowers (330 species) thrive here. The tallgrass prairie ecosystem includes trees, birds, mammals (60 species), insects, and microorganisms. Songbirds like the dickcissel and meadowlark often sway precariously atop grasses and shrubs. They winter in South America and Mexico, then migrate to North American tallgrass prairies to nest and raise their young.
We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, audio description hand held devices are available at the Heritage Center. Braille copies of this brochure are available at park visitor centers. Call or check our website for additional information.
OVERVIEW: More Information
ADDRESS: 8 5 2 3 West State Highway 4 , Beatrice, Nebraska 6 8 3 1 0
PHONE: 4 0 2 2 2 3 3 5 1 4
WEBSITE: www.n p s. g o v forward slash h o m e
Join Friends of Homestead at www.friendsofhomestead.com
Homestead National Historical Park is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about national parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities visit www.n p s . gov.