An elevator took us up about 600 feet, then the final climb to the top was via a steel ladder inside the tower. A hatch was opened and we climbed out atop the cylinder that encloses the smokestack at the Iatan Power Plant. The 360-degree view of western Platte County and the Missouri River valley was pretty and amazing.
Green tree leaves shrouded the bluffs. Crops dot brown fields. A muddy River made a wide ribbon in a channelized pathway for water from the West. This visit atop a tower was due to a peregrine falcon nest maintained by KCP&L. But a chance to look over a broad landscape also reminded me of history.
I wish PlatteCounty had a historical interpretive park with a view of the River. Or, we had the same with a viewing tower in a restored natural landscape on top one of the highest hills in the County’s interior. Our County’s saved and displayed history is scattered in a few museums or on markers. Hard-working volunteers have tried their best to tell stories and showcase artifacts. But the downside of being a growing County with an airport-driven business corridor is that modern development takes precedence. Access to all the information in the world on the Internet tends to push our local history a little deeper into obscurity among our young.
Maybe you have to like a good story to care about this history. But we have the stories. Our Missouri River shore was once the western frontier. Riverboats that traversed the treacherous Big Muddy and stopped in our ports, carried the goods and the people that enabled pioneering in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains and beyond. Several early Platte County residents went to California and Oregon to seek fortunes and returned to talk about it.
Awareness of our history is stifled somewhat because the movies and television bypassed us. Our scenery isn’t as stunning as the Rockies or as bleak as the western plains, thus less drama for the cameras. We’ve often been mentioned in movies regarding the West but they’re usually filmed elsewhere without our true scenery. Only the great director Eng Lee ever used our landscape correctly in historical film. His Civil War epic, “Ride With the Devil,” captured the true beauty of pioneer western Missouri. Maybe we should place an Eng Lee monument in a park somewhere.