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Ash Hollow Complex

The California Trail Interpretive Center is home to interactive exhibits and information about the people and landmarks of the historic California Trail, like Ash Hollow Complex. This lush and beautiful stop was one of the most mentioned pioneer camps on the trail. Discover why it was a tiny piece of paradise on a long and arduous journey.

An Idyllic Rest Stop In Nebraska

One of the reasons Ash Hollow Complex in Nebraska was so popular with emigrants was because it provided an idyllic rest stop along the trail. For the first time in nearly 200 miles, it offered fresh spring water for drinking and cooking – a real treat for weary travelers tired of the water from the Platte River.

Ash Hollow Complex also offered plenty of wood for fires and grass for animals to graze. Emigrant E. B. Farnham wrote about Ash Hollow Complex, saying: “This is the best looking place we have seen for some time. It is a cool shady looking place fragrant with different kinds of flowers of which rose and jasmine are the principle. Grape vines and currant bushes are plenteous.”

Windlass Hill

One of the more challenging aspects of arriving at Ash Hollow Complex was the journey down Windlass Hill, a natural landmark along the trail. No one knows the origin of that name, but the ruts from pioneer wagons can still be seen in the hill today. Its treacherous 25° angle made the descent difficult, and sometimes dangerous, for pioneers to navigate. However, once the best-looking was completed, the emigrants found themselves in Ash Hollow Complex, the gateway to the North Platte Valley.

Romance And Tragedy

A famous trail landmark near Ash Hollow Complex is the grave of Rachel Pattinson. The 18-year-old Rachel married her husband, Nathan, in April of 1849 and the two set out with his family on the Oregon-California trail just one week later. She became sick with cholera on June 19th and died the same day. Her husband took the time to carve out a headstone in her honor that is still preserved along the trail today. According to his descendants, Nathan Pattinson never remarried and loved Rachel for the rest of his life.

Ash Hollow Complex Today

Ash Hollow Complex is now a state historical park. Visitors can see interesting geology and historical landmarks from the California trail. Some of the highlights include:

  • The Grave Of Rachel Pattinson
  • Windlass Hill
  • Pioneer Wagon Ruts
  • Ash Hollow Cave
  • Trading Post

Experience The California Trail

Ash Hollow Complex is just one stop along the trail, but you can learn about the experiences of real pioneers and many of the trail landmarks at the California Trail Interpretive Center. With special events, programs, and exhibits, you can experience the trail for yourself. Plan a visit today.