[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 17: US 6 in Nebraska (Colorado State Line to McCook; Chase, Hayes, Hitchcock and Red Willow Counties)

Go to: Part 16 | Main US 6 page | Part 18

From the mighty Rockies to the mighty plains, we now enter corn country and the wide-open spaces of Nebraska. The routing of US 6 in Nebraska is almost entirely inherited from old US 38, itself the inheritor of the 1911 Omaha-Lincoln-Denver (OLD) and later the 1920 Detroit-Lincoln-Denver (DLD) Highways, continuing on throughout the state's "lower rectangle." US 6 runs on this original routing largely unmodified except for more substantial realignments in Lincoln and Omaha, which we won't reach until Part 21. With the exception of the brief half-mile spit of I-480 it co-routes with into Iowa, US 6 is the primary route over virtually all of its 373 miles in the state. Much of this routing is rural and we won't see much other than small towns and cities until we reach the extreme eastern portion.

Throughout Nebraska we will make reference to the state's official route log, the Nebraska Highway Reference Post Log Book, which we will abbreviate to the NHRPLB. For suffixed and special designation routes the official route in the NHRPLB may be differently rendered than what appears in the field, so we will use both as an aid to the anal, marking the NHRPLB entry with [NHRPLB]. As with Utah, internally the Nebraska Department of Transportation uses the abbreviation N- for state highways; we will again maintain Roadgap convention to use the postal code for section headings and the N- abbreviation in longer prose.

Chase County, Nebraska

Our first county in Nebraska is Chase county, named after Champion S. Chase, Nebraska's first attorney general. It was formed out of a section of Hayes county to the east, though it remained unorganized until 1886. With its county seat at Imperial, which we will reach presently, it has a population of 3,971 [2017].

Distance signage over the state line.
First shield in Nebraska.
Mile 1.
Mile markers are stuck on all kinds of posts but many older alignments use these stock green digit panels (freeways, however, use a more typical MUTCD-like marker we will see later). NDOT refers to them as reference posts. In the NHRPLB reference posts are indicated by the notation XX+YY and increase north and east, roughly indicating XX.YY miles to that point; while they do not always precisely match accumulated mileage we will treat them as synonymous for the purposes of this travelogue.
If you build it, they will come.
Mile 10.
A green, wide-open summer.
Entering Imperial.
Imperial was formed by local homesteaders Thomas Mercier and M. J. Goodrich, who gave lots to anyone who would put up a building. When the railroad reached Imperial in 1892, however, the local land company encouraged the town to move south to the line by offering lots to those who would relocate; the central business district remains (t)here to this day. The modern city has 2,062 residents [2017].
Looking back at the distance signage leaving Imperial to the west, all Colorado destinations, with Denver 211 miles hence.
Passing through town (pardon the road construction).
The main drag.
Our first state highway junction is with NE 15A SPUR (SPUR S-15A [NHRPLB]).
Although the name might imply that it is a spur of some other route, S-15A is completely unrelated to NE 15, as are most of the S-series and L-series spurs and links in the Nebraska highway route log. This small 6.7 mile highway solely services Champion to the southwest, the first name of the county's namesake, where it simply terminates in town.
END 15A SPUR at the junction.
EB US 6 leaving town.
Another common convention along Nebraska highways are these "JUNCTION" diagrammatic advance guide signs, here for NE 61. Notice the covered wagon on the state shield.
N-61 is the main north-south artery much as US 6 is the main east-west in the county, and we travel briefly cosigned.
Nebraska does not have a "one route one road" rule, so the mileage of this single alignment is charged to both highways, but the NHRPLB explicitly refers to US 6 for this stretch ("/NEXT 9.58 MILES REFERENCED ON US-6/") and demonstates US 6 is the primary routing. In addition, signed ref posts show US 6's accumulated mileage, not NE 61's.
Distance signage leaving Imperial.
Mile 29.
Turn-off for Enders, a small town of 42 [2010] named for a local rancher.
Swooping around over the gently rolling hills.
Enders' primary significance is for its lovely local reservoir, which made a nice rest stop for a snack break.
Outside of Enders, NE 61 diverts south to intersect our old friend US 34 from Colorado (which will rejoin us later in this Part), and thence to the Kansas state line.
Distance signage at the junction.
More emerald hills.
Bales in the fields.
Entering Wauneta.
The name Wauneta is, incredibly, a corruption of the name "Juanita," a popular song request of the Rowley family who ran a small outpost in the late 1800s. Apparently Mrs Rowley played piano for guests, and that Spanish song was frequently requested. The Post Office, however, was concerned the name would conflict with Juniata in Adams County and used a more phonetic rendering in 1887. At one time the town was well-known for its falls on the Frenchman Creek (then River), but the uncontrolled waterway was also a source of devastating floods and the falls were lost when the creek was dammed in 1951 to form the Enders Reservoir. The modern village has 574 residents [2017].
Not a lot to the town these days, just some residences and grain towers.
Distance signage leaving Wauneta.
Hayes county line and Central time zone.
Hayes County, Nebraska

Hayes county is named for Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, who was in office at the time of the county's creation in 1877. Its population only numbers 893 [2017], with 196 in the county seat of Hayes Center (so named because it occupies nearly exactly the geographic centre of the jurisdiction). US 6 passes mostly through the county's southwest corner, so we won't be in it long.

Mile 50 and turnoff for Hamlet (unsigned SPUR S-43A [NHRPLB]).
Hamlet was originally established as Hudson in 1890, named for settlers William and Eliza Hudson who established a homestead about a mile west of the modern town in 1873. However, the Post Office objected to the name as it conflicted with a similarly named town and changed it to "a rural hamlet" in 1904. The modern village has 53 residents [2017]. The small spur route here only serves Hamlet, and as usual is unrelated to NE 43.
Crossing the Frenchman Creek. Notice the small green milepost on the bridge reading 05166. In the NHRPLB this duly appears as 51+66, but is corrected to an actual milepoint of 51.29 in the same document.
Hitchcock county line.
Hitchcock County, Nebraska

Hitchcock county was formed in 1873 and named for U.S. Senator Phineas Warren Hitchcock, then in office for the state of Nebraska at the time. Its county seat is in Trenton; the county population today is 2,834 [2017].

Entering Palisade.
Palisade is a little unusual in that a portion of it is also in Hayes county. The terrain around the town at the time the railroad went through in 1882 resembled a palisade, hence the name. The modern village has a population of 340 [2017].
Junction NE 25A and the Palisade main drag.
N-25A passes through Palisade to intersect its parent about 6 miles north; we'll have our own junction with NE 25 presently.
Distance signage leaving Palisade.
Junction NE 25, running from Kansas to the south to US 30 near Sutherland.
Mile 64.
Approaching the junction with US 34, which we last left in Colorado. The link road on the left appears in the NHRPLB as LINK L-44C, but was not signed at the time.
Distance signage at the junction. We turn left.

US 6/US 34

Despite being cosigned, US 6 is the primary route on this alignment as indicated by (as with NE 61) "NEXT 140.26 MILES REFERENCED ON US-6" in the NHLRB. We'll be cosigned with US 34 for quite a while as that notation suggests.

A rather out of place gantry looks back in the westbound direction. Notice "Sterling Co" (Sterling, CO) as a control city for WB US 6. Only US 34 is signed for Denver, being shorter, though both highways eventually get there.
EB US 6/US 34.
Distance signage past the junction.
Old bright orange right-of-way marker along the road.
Mile 73.
Entering Culbertson at the junction with NE 17, a short 17-mile (as it happens) connector to the Kansas border.
The village name came from Alexander Culbertson, a local fur trader and Indian agent, and was used when the local Post Office was established in town in 1873. It served as the first county seat of Hitchcock county; though it was later incorporated as a village in 1885, the seat moved that same year to Trenton which was believed better situated in the county's geographic centre. Although a growing area after an Army base was established in nearby McCook (which we will reach) in 1942, the closure of the base just three years later drained nearly 30% of the residents. Today the village has a population of 577 [2017].
That's about all there is for Culbertson from here.
Leaving town.
Red Willow county line.
Red Willow County, Nebraska

Red Willow county comes from the Red Willow Creek that runs through it, a tributary of the Republican River (itself a tributary of the Kansas River). The name is actually a mistranslation, as its Dakota Indian name is the Red Dogwood Creek, for the deep red shrubs that grew along its banks the Indians used for baskets. Its population is 10,728 [2017], most of it in the county seat of McCook, which we will reach presently. More about the Republican River in the next part.

EB US 6/US 34.
Distance signage looking back west.
Billboards as we get into town.
McCook city limits at Mile 85.
Tonight's nicely appointed room in town.

Continue to Part 18

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