The state is crossed by many historic trails, but it was the California Gold Rush that first brought large numbers here. Nebraska became a state in 1867.
There are wide variations between winter and summer temperatures, and violent thunderstorms and tornadoes are common. The state is characterized by treeless prairie, ideal for cattle-grazing, and it is a major producer of beef, as well as pork, maize and soybeans. Nebraska is overwhelmingly rural, as the 8th least-densely populated state of the United States.