By Theresa Russell
Discovering previous unknown territory makes travel worthwhile. Bringing geography and history to life and showcasing local hospitality completes the travel picture. Just across the Missouri River from Omaha, Council Bluffs sits inconspicuously on the opposite shore. Within its confines, several outstanding attractions lure in visitors.
Connecting the dots between destinations nicely completes a historical picture. Perhaps the most famous resident of Council Bluffs, General Greenville Dodge was a true Renaissance man who was involved in the Civil War; a banker, a politician and a railroad builder.
His company played a significant role in the western expansion of the railroad. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum tells the story of the railroad and is worth spending several hours for exploration.
Squirrel jails existed in several spots across the country and one of them now acts as a museum. The background sounds of prisoner’s voices and the authentic setting of the Historic Squirrel Cage Jail might instill a sense of malaise in the faint of heart. The rotating jailhouse is one of few remaining in existence.
Lewis and Clark are honored with a monument and overlook designating their historic meeting with the Otoe and Missouri Indians.
Outdoor enthusiasts find plenty of spots for enjoying nature. The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge gives great views of the Omaha skyline, as does Tom Hannafan River’s Edge Park located at the foot of the bridge.
Walkers and cyclists find easy access to a variety of trails from this point. An evening light show keeps guests lingering. Cyclists pedal every Thursday on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail for the camaraderie at the Mineola Steakhouse.
Hitchcock Nature Center specializes in raptor viewing from a 45-foot observation tower, where expansive views of the area and raptors taking advantage of temperatures can be seen. On the ground, several trails pass through the Loess Hills terrain, found only in a few places in the world.
The people are friendly and great dining options abound. Spend a few days discovering all that Council Bluffs has to offer.