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Arkansas’s Boston Mountains; Nebraska’s history hub

Arkansas’s Boston Mountains

The Boston Mountains “have a grandeur that sneaks up on you,” said Brad Scriber in The Boston Globe. These rugged hills at the southern edge of the Ozarks never rise higher than 2,600 feet, but they offer plenty of drama when you look down from the peaks. Rivers that carved the landscape snake through crisscrossing valleys and past cliff faces of “staggering dimensions.” The name of the range has nothing to do with Massachusetts’s biggest city: The word “boston” once was shorthand for a difficult challenge. Today, much of the terrain is protected land, open to recreation, so you can explore it by canoeing down the Buffalo National River, driving from I-40 to Jasper on Scenic 7 Byway, or hiking the Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail. At Lost Valley, near Jasper, you can squeeze into a cave to see a “hidden” 25-foot waterfall. At nearby Boxley Valley, you can watch a herd of 500 elk congregate most every night at dusk.

Nebraska’s history hub

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“People who care about the history of the nation’s westward expansion have a soft spot for Nebraska City,” said Susan Spano in Smithsonian. This town of 7,200 “long served as a way station to the West,” providing a steamboat port and ferry crossing on the Missouri River, and it celebrates that history in several of its dozen museums. Lewis and Clark noted the area’s suitability for settlement when they passed through in 1804, and the two explorers are honored at the Lewis & Clark Missouri River Visitors Center, which details the pair’s discoveries and anchors a series of hiking trails. Taxidermy has its moment at the River Country Nature Center and energy innovation has its own at the Kregel Windmill Factory Museum, but the true can’t-miss is Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, home to a mansion that once belonged to the newspaper editor who created Arbor Day and whose son founded the Morton Salt company.

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