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A journey on Pants Butte road

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 5:25 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - There’s a road in far northwest Nebraska north of Harrison, that affords visitors an unforgettable scenic view.

The road we are talking about is called “Pants Butte” road, and it’s about three miles east of Sowbelly Canyon in Sioux County. At one time, the area featured a formation that looked like pants upside down. But when the road was built through the area, the pants were removed.

“When they built the road back in the 20′s or 30′s, they had to remove the pants for safety reasons,” First National Bank of Chadron president Steve Cleveland said. “They were afraid the pair of pants would fall on someone coming through this area.”

Cleveland does have a picture of what the “pants” used to look like. “I’m going to say it’s an old picture, and that color was added back to it. So, I would suspect it’s near 100 years old, and it was taken before the road was built,” Cleveland said.

The Pants Butte road provides access to the Hat Creek valley of Sioux County. Many who travel along Pants Butte road say the scenery is as good as anywhere in the state.

“This, in my opinion, is the prettiest drive in Nebraska,” Cleveland said. “You pop over the crest, you see the Hat Creek valley where springs are feeding creeks that filter through the valley. Then, in the distance, you can see the Black Hills, and on occasion you can see Harney Peak.”

Pants Butte road opens up into a ranching area, and that area tells the tale of how open range ranching began in Sioux County. “This was the reason why these open range ranchers seemed to find and stay in this area.

“It was the water,” Cleveland said. “The water was dependable, it would help winter their cattle, and there wasn’t much else dependable in this area, particularly rain. So, if water was just coming out of the ground, that would be a real benefit, and a reason in itself to put a stake down.”

From a vista on Pants Butte road, we could see the Hat Creek Ranch in the distance. “(Hat Creek Ranch) was established in 1879 by C.F. Coffee.

It’s a fourth generation ranch,” Cleveland said. “The fifth generation is now involved in the corporation. So, it’s one of the oldest continuously operating ranches in Nebraska.”

Beyond the ranch history, and the story about Pants Butte, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the natural beauty found along Pants Butte road.

“It’s just the most breathtaking view you can find in Nebraska,” Cleveland said.

Copyright 2020 KOLN. All rights reserved.

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