I think one of the most pristine, natural places left on earth is in the north-central area of Nebraska. One of my all time favorite places to visit in my own state is the sandhills area. I especially like to take in Cherry County. I really love to stay in Valentine. Every couple of years I take a weekend to drive to the Valentine area just to decompress and to get back to nature.
Once I even visited at the time of the “Star Party”. Astronomers and stargazers from around the world congregate in Cherry County each year during a summer new moon to enjoy one of the last remaining dark spots on earth. There is an almost complete absence of light pollution in rural Cherry County, so viewing the heavens at night is a primal, magnificent experience.
I have met people from as far away as Beijing and Perth, Australia in tiny, Valentine, Nebraska. The sky is legendary. The stars are so brilliant, that once your eyes are adjusted to the dark, you can see to get around. In fact, flashlights are taboo at the “Star Party”.
Even if the sky is overcast during your visit, the lay of the land, the environment and the wildlife are outstanding. I could write about Cherry County and the rest of the Sandhills like a community booster. I don’t exaggerate when I say that words and photos simply don’t do justice to this special place.
I’ve been thinking about the Sandhills a lot lately. A bluejayblog reader had forwarded me a New York Times article about the evolution of wildlife in the Nebraska Sandhills: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/science/09mouse.html?src=recg I thought the piece was interesting in that it originated in New York.
The big reason I’ve been thinking about the Sandhills is because of the plan to place the Keystone oil pipeline through Nebraska, the idea is to lay it through the Sandhills. The Sandhills are a primary area of water injection into the Ogallala Aquifer. If there should ever be a leak or oil spill, even a so-called “minor” event, the danger of widespread contamination would be great.
If a spill got into the aquifer, there is little chance that it could be cleaned up. As you can see, the Ogallala Aquifer not only underlies most of Nebraska but flows underneath a good portion of much of the Great Plains. The water in the aquifer has been present for eons. The danger that this ancient water supply could be contaminated is frightening. It’s a personal concern because my water supply comes from this vast underground lake. So I’m not just concerned in an abstract, objective way.
Hopefully, smarter minds will prevail on the pipeline issue with the result being that the Sandhills will be left alone so one of our nation’s vital treasures can remain pristine. Meantime, I look forward to my next visit to north-central Nebraska to enjoy the natural splendor of the Nebraska Sandhills.
The Blue Jay of Happiness asks you to contact President Obama along with your Senators and Congressional Representative ASAP about the oil pipeline impact on the Ogallala Aquifer. You don’t need to be a Nebraskan to do so.