When we were in Great Britain last month, our first stop was at iconic Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, where a ring of standing stones is set. Its history and purpose have boggled the minds
of archaeologists and visitors for hundreds of years.
No one we met there had ever heard about Nebraska’s Carhenge, and by the confused looks on their faces when I mentioned it, I’m not so sure they didn’t think I was making it up. I’m also convinced they were probably muttering something like “crazy Americans” when we were out of an ear’s reach.
But Carhenge is real. I saw it for the third time last week while on a family road trip with my husband, Steve, and daughter, Meghan.
It’s not a place you just sort of stumble across. You have to want to go there. And we wanted to go there. Having just visited the original inspiration a few weeks prior on our three-week vacation in Europe, we couldn’t resist a stop at what is undoubtedly one of Nebraska’s strangest attractions and eagerly drove out of our way to Alliance and then three miles north on Hwy. 87 to see this Nebraska oddity.
Carhenge is the artistic creation of Jim Reinders, who built a copy of Stonehenge out of cars in 1987, the summer I graduated from high school. Having lived and studied near Stonehenge in England, Reinders used 39 automobiles placed in the same proportions as Stonehenge, to build this incredible site. According to the Friends of Stonehenge website, “some of the cars are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk-end down, while other cares are placed to form the arches and welded in place.”
The cars are all spray painted gray and the honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Cadillac. As the story goes, Reinders built Carhenge one hot sumer as a memorial to his father who had once lived on the farm where the structure now stands. About 35 members of the Reinders family gathered to build Carhenge and it was dedicated during the Summer Solstice in 1987 with champagne, poetry, songs, and a play, according to the website.
Since then, additional sculptures in a “Car Art Reserve” have been built at the site. I’m especially fond of the “Fourd Seasons” inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and constructed only of Ford vehicles and representing Nebraska’s four seasons.
Unlike the protected and roped off areas at the original Stonehenge, visitors here can walk among the stacked cars at Carhenge, gaze up at the hubcaps and grills, and even touch the automobiles of yesteryear to confirm they are real. I think the place is amazing! And, I’m not the only one. 60,000 people visit Carhenge every year and it even has a Wikipedia page!
Eventually, Reinders donated the 10 acres of land where Carhenge is located to the Friends of Carhenge who preserved it until 2013. In October of that year, Friends of Carhenge gifted the site to the Citizens of Alliance, Nebraska.
We roamed around the site taking pictures for a while and made a quick stop at the small, one-bathroom stall gift shop near the site. There, we purchased a postcard and mailed it to the folks at Stonehenge in England.
We count it a real privilege to have visited both Stonehenge and Carhenge within a month of each other. From the sublime to the ridiculous (you be the judge of which is which) — we loved them both.
Have you been to Carhenge? What did you think? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.