SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree visits home of Arbor Day

The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree stopped in Nebraska City, Nebraska for a whistlestop event, Nov. 19, 2018. The tree team left Douglas Fir saplings from Oregon as a gift to the city, which was home to the first Arbor Day celebration. Courtesy photo by The Joy Trip Project (used with permission).

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in the western Cascade mountain range. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 19th, 2018
Nebraska City, Neb.

Hello from the Arbor Day capital, Nebraska City! 

We traveled 445 miles across the entire state of Nebraska, today.

That journey would have taken a wagon train a solid 30 days, assuming there was no trouble along the way.

Nebraska was the state where unneeded belongings were dropped along the trail as the realities of plains travel caused pioneers to reassess what was needed and what was not. Grandma’s rocking chair and the dining room table had to be left behind when it became obvious that the oxen were struggling through the dry grasslands of the high prairie and the mountains were yet to come.

Our weather was fine, clear, and perfect for making good time.

We started our day near the city of Scottsbluff with a sunrise photo stop at the iconic Chimney Rock.

After days along the Platte River (which literally means flat), the 325 foot Chimney Rock was a notable landmark that is described in the journal entries of many pioneers.

It was by far the most mentioned landmark along the Oregon Trail.

It was inspiring to see this geologic formation and to witness with my own eyes the exact view of the Oregon Trail travelers, 75 years ago.

We rolled into Nebraska City for a lovely evening event. There were children caroling and warm food and drinks for all.

It’s not an accident that the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree made a stop in the city also known as the “Arbor Day capital.”

What a beautiful city! There were trees EVERYWHERE.

We left behind some seedlings from our Oregon State tree, the Douglas fir, which seemed like a fitting gift for the city that hosted our country’s first Arbor Day celebration (in April 1885, with tree plantings, a parade, and crowd more than 1,000 people strong!).

One of my favorite Oregon Trail stories is of an emigrant wagon carrying fruit trees along the entire length of the trail.

Henderson Luelling made the journey pulling two extra wagons carrying apple, cherry, plum, pear and walnut trees. This endeavor resulted in Henderson becoming a millionaire, and the Willamette Valley being populated by fruit trees that are ancestors of the trees we enjoy there, today!

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

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