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Great Plains

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Travel Guide North America Great Plains

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Introduction

Wagons at Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska

Wagons at Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska

© All Rights Reserved jengelman

The Great Plains form an extensive region in North America, divided between both the United States and Canada, with the majority of the area located in the USA. It's a land of rather monotonous landscapes, but also a land of imagination, a land which many people may recognize from photos or even some famous movies. Although there are few cities and spectacular landscapes, there are quite a few places of interest and this is a great area to drive around and experience the ultimate American roadtrip!

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Geography

The total area covers a massive 500,000 square miles (about 1.3 million square kilometres) and is about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometres) from north to south and averages about 500 miles (800 kilometres) in width. It is a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in the famous prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada.

North Dakota Landscapes

North Dakota Landscapes

© All Rights Reserved Rhombus


This area covers parts of the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North- and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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Sights and Activities

Mount Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore, S.D.

Mt. Rushmore, S.D.

© All Rights Reserved vegasmike6

Mount Rushmore is the iconic monument to US political history that is carved into the side of a solid granite mountain. It consists of the faces of four famous US presidents. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. In fact the statue is a compromise as the original design also included the upper bodies of the presidents. The design is by Gutzon Borglum, who also was the supervisor on the project, but it was his son Lincoln Borglum, who finished the project in 1941, which is also the year in which his father died. There is a visitor center, named after Lincoln Borglum near the mountain, where more information about the construction of the monument can be found. In the evening Mount Rushmore is illuminated for two hours after sunset.

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Weather

DSC_1016

DSC_1016

© All Rights Reserved hayden111

The weather here is as diverse as you could wish (or not wish!). As it extends from the Mexican border all the way north well into Canada, temperatures can range from 45 °C in summer (June to early September) in states like Texas to -45 °C during cold winter nights in the north of the US and southern Canada (December to February). Although not all of the Great Plains region falls within "Tornado Alley" (and part of Tornado Alley in turn is located east of the Great Plains), there can be some heavy tornadoes during the season (usually late February to early June, peaking in March and April). Rain is mostly in the form of heavy downpours (thunderstorms) in summer and can be persistent throughout spring and fall, but most areas are relatively dry. In general, it gets drier the more south you go. Snow and frost is common in winter, especially in Canada and the northern half of the USA, occasionally even in Texas.

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Getting There

By Train

There are possibilities to reach the specific states or provinces by train. Check Canada's ViaRail website or Amtrak for routes in the USA.

By Bus

Check Greyhound US and Greyhound Canada for details about routes, prices and schedules.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

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Sleep

Hotel and Motel Chains

There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:

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This is version 6. Last edited at 7:57 on May 18, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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