The Archway Monument, such as it is, does a fine job almost tricking you into thinking it is part of the National Park System.
Built in 2000, it is fairly new, and as we found out later, was in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings. But it is a top-notch place to visit and learn about Kearney. We parked on the eastern side of the massive bridge-like structure, which arches across four lanes of Intestate 80. In the morning sun, the vivid colors of purple, orange and yellow blaze out across the arch, framed in by the brown tones of the logs fort or cabin it tries to emulate, creating a unique hybrid of a classical triumphant arch and a frontier fort. The log towers that suspend the arch over the busy highway with semis racing to and fro below it are topped with pyramid roofs, which in turn are topped with silvery sculptures of a horse rearing up as if bursting forth from a pair of silvery wings. A latticework of silver joins these two peaks as if creating a speed trail of the horses racing off on their journey. It really is a marvelous and unexpected sight to behold.
After breakfast, we moved the car to the west side, parked and got out to explore the exhibits on the other side of the North Platte River. Then the town’s key role in history became apparent as we read the sign next to the bridge – the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and the California Trail all converged at this place, then an outpost called Fort Kearney, before heading on west on the last leg of their journey. So it is sort of an Ellis Island of the West, where hundreds of thousands, if not millions trekked west before the coming of the railroads, which caused the immigrant wagon trains to cease.