Land in Nebraska is almost entirely privately owned. Hunters looking for public access along the central Platte River can have a hard time because many landowners who used to allow the public free access no longer do, or now lease land to outfitters who charge a premium. Chad Gideon farms between Grand Island and Kearney. Recently, he and his family bought property on the Platte River to ensure their continued access to land for hunting and fishing.
I’ve lived in Wood River all my life. We farm beans and corn, and then also I’m in the sod business. We fish and deer hunt and waterfowl hunt and turkey hunt.
We’re lucky to have the Platte River in Nebraska. The cranes and the waterfowl, you know they depend on the agricultural fields, to reserve their fat to get back to their breeding grounds. So the ag ground and the Platte, it kind of all goes hand in hand. There’s a lot of people that haven’t been up and down the river to experience what the river’s all about. And the spring migration–what I tell people that are traveling through is, if you go see Disneyland or other places across the United States, sometimes it seems like if you’ve seen it once, that’s enough.
The spring migration is so incredible, it’s just like being a kid every spring again. To see the masses of snow geese and all the birds and everything.
Sandhill crane sunrise on the central Platte River. Photo by Peter Stegen.
Years ago or not even that many years ago when we were growing up, there’s a lot of fathers and daughters and sons that had a place to go hunting and fishing and enjoy the outdoors. There’s just no place for the average person to go anymore.
That’s probably one of the main reasons that we bought the property. It’s always been a dream of ours to own a piece of river land, to ensure that our kids will always have a place to hunt and fish and enjoy the outdoors and just be free along the river, I guess.
We’re not only hunters and fisherman, we’re conservationists too. And the older a person gets, the more you want to give back to the animals and the birds and everything.
We’d like to do some projects on here for the waterfowl. Also maybe put an easement so it’s not developed when I’m gone. We don’t want our kids to see dollar signs and just start putting houses up and down the river. We just want to kind of keep it in its natural state.
When I come down here, you feel close to God just because, I mean, to see all the birds and everything. I hope that when I’m gone that the kids we’ll see what we’ve seen. To be able to purchase this ground, it’s been a very big blessing to us.
Music excerpted in this piece: “This Home” by Jake Irwin and Alex Norton (De Wolfe Music).
Voices of the Platte is a collaboration between Platte Basin Timelapse and NET Radio’s Humanities Desk. These audio essays have been edited for length and clarity.
Photography contribution by Peter Stegen