Four States (and Two Geographic Oddities) in One Day

In the morning on my way out of Laramie, I stopped by Warren’s office to say hi and bye.  He works for a family-run development company, so I got to meet most of his family, then he took me out in the field to show me one of his current residential developments, on the outskirts of Laramie.  I suggested he name the future school “Warren’s School,” or at least name the road under construction, “Warren Drive,” but I don’t know if it’ll happen.

 
 
Above:  After saying goodbye to Warren, I continued east.  I saw the tri-state marker in Kansas/Colorado/Nebraska then visited the lowest point in the highest state, on the Arikaree River in Colorado.  Late that night I pulled into Prairie Dog State Park in Kansas.
 

I said goodbye to my old chum, then got in the truck and headed east on Interstate 80, past Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne, and crossed into Nebraska, where I passed the headquarters of Cabela’s, in Sidney.  I had to do a double-take, because way out here in the middle of nowhere, there was a large office building that said “Cabela's Headquarters.”

There were two “extreme geography” goals that afternoon:  1). The tri-state marker indicating the boundary of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, and 2). The lowest point in the highest state, which was along the Arikaree River in northeastern Colorado.  I hit Interstate 76 and backtracked west to the historic city of Julesburg, Colorado, on the South Platte River, then headed south to Wray and then east on U.S. 34. 

Using my GPS, I found the dirt road heading south to the tri-state marker, so I turned off the highway and followed it, then after several twists and turns and a few more miles, I reached my destination.  The marker was surrounded by a small fence with a unlocked gate.  This was the third such marker I’d visited during my journey, the first being the tri-state marker for Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico in early June, then the Four Corners marker for Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico a few weeks earlier.  It’s interesting to stand at one of these sites, maybe because it’s one of the only places that you can see on a map and then realize you’re at that same exact location.  Well, it’s interesting to ME, anyway.

After that little thrill, I continued down the dirt road a few miles because I knew another geographic oddity was lurking nearby:  the lowest point in the highest state.  The highest state in the U.S. is Colorado with an average elevation of 6,800’ and the lowest point in Colorado was along the Arikaree River here in the northeast corner of the state, at an elevation of 3,317’.  Of course, earlier in my trip I’d visited other notable places in Colorado, including the highest city (Leadville at 10,152’), the highest county (San Juan County, with an average elevation of 11,240’) and the most remote county in the Lower 48 (i.e., fewest paved roads per square mile; Hinsdale County).  Yep, Colorado was a virtual treasure trove of geographic extreme sites!

Twenty minutes after I left the tri-state marker, I was still driving slowly on the dirt road, without seeing a soul here on the High Plains of eastern Colorado.  Then I passed a county sign (presumably for Kansas), so I knew this must be the state boundary.  I pulled over and could see the Arikaree River about a half-mile to the south.  The only person around was a farmer who was several hundred yards away in a tractor plowing his field.  I’m sure he saw me, and I’m sure he couldn’t figure out what someone was doing out here.  I’m also pretty sure he didn’t realize that his tract of land was the lowest land in the highest state – and I’m sure he probably didn’t care, either!  I thought about chasing him down, but he was a quarter-mile away and driving at a good clip in the opposite direction, plowing his fields, so I just took some pictures. 

Along with visiting the lowest point in the highest state, here near the Arikaree River in Colorado, I was also planning later in my trip to visit the highest point in the lowest state, which from my research I knew was in northern Delaware.  Thus, I would perhaps become the first and only person to visit both the lowest point in the highest state, as well as the highest point in the lowest state.  Pretty impressive, huh?  Well o.k., maybe not.

After spending about 10 minutes here, I got back in the truck and continued slowly down the dirt road, heading east into Kansas.  I finally found a paved highway, crossed back into Nebraska and then Kansas again, and then, with the windows rolled down, headed down U.S. 36 in the late afternoon.  A few hours later, and well past sunset, I pulled into the wonderfully-named Prairie Dog State Park near Norton, Kansas and, by the light of my headlights, found a campsite by the lake.  A pleasant ranger drove by about 10 minutes later as I was making dinner and we chatted for a while.  Nice folks here in Kansas, I decided.

Strange Geographic Places in Northeastern Colorado