Discover Rural America
There’s something to be said for small towns where people wave for no reason, and you can find a pitcher for less than a beer in other places. You won’t get lost in town because someone will always be willing to point you in the right direction. The only traffic jams are the four-legged kind, and you’ll always know that real people live here because it’s truly rural, not touristy real. You won’t mistake us for Jackson, Wyo., or Aspen, Colo., but you will travel back to a time when interstates didn’t exist and giant resorts hadn’t invaded the interior of the U.S., back when people stopped in small towns on the great American road trip.
This is Northwest Nebraska and there’s No Better Direction.
- Agate Fossil Beds & Cook Collection
- Belmont Tunnel
- Bethel Church
- Chadron Art Alley
- Chadron Downtown Historic District
- Chadron State College
- CSC Arboretum & Heritage Gardens
- CSC Planetarium
- Golf Courses
- High Plains Herbarium
- High Plains Homestead
- Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed
- Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center
- Montrose Church
- Post Playhouse
- Swimming Pools
Nineteen million years ago, strange creatures roamed the savanna that is now western Nebraska. The ancient mammals included tiny, two-horned rhinoceros, the Moropus—a horse/giraffe/tapir/rhinoceros/bear-like creature, and the ferocious 7-foot-tall large tusked pig. Though well known for decades by the Lakota, the first fossils were discovered by Captain James H. Cook in 1878. Cook and his son, Harold, developed a headquarters at Agate Springs Ranch for fellow paleontologists. Skulls and complete skeletons were found in the early 1900s, many of which were housed at the Carnegie Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.
Over the years, Cook and his family fostered friendships with Chief Red Cloud and other members of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. During their visits, the parties would exchange gifts, which Cook concluded should remain with the ranch. The National Park Service Visitor Center houses two rooms of collectables, such as buckskin suits, gloves, one of Red Cloud’s shirts, pipebags and whetstones. Historic photographs accompany several of the artifacts.
Phone: 308-668-2211; Hours: The visitor center and museum is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the off-season and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer season.
Located halfway between Crawford and Marsland, NE, the Belmont Tunnel is a 698-foot long railway tunnel whose last train passed through it on May 3, 1982. The tunnel was built in 1888-89 by Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. When construction began in 1888, the contractor, Kilpatrick Bros. & Collins, promised workers $1.50 to $1.74 per day to work. When the workers arrived, they found they would be earning only $0.15 an hour and many returned home while only 1,200 men stayed in Belmont to construct the tunnel.
Workers dug the tunnel from both ends and most days they made about 3-feet of progress, but some days, workers dug up to 6-feet through thin strata of rock between compacted sand, which made light blasting necessary for the construction. The debris from the tunnel was taken away in livestock-drawn carts. Timbers that were cut near the railway tunnel were used to support the tunnel. The tunnel wasn’t quite finished when the railroad trackage coming from Alliance to Crawford arrived August 17, 1889. Belmont, which is now a ghost town, served as a temporary railway terminus while workers finished constructing the tunnel on August 25, 1889.
A freight train destroyed a large portion of the tunnel in November of 1917, which sparked a renovation for the tunnel in 1919-20. The timbers and concrete footings were removed and dumped into ravines. The tunnel was then re-bored and an oil derrick poured concrete through holes dug in the roof of the tunnel to reinforce it.
When the overnight train heading from Lincoln to northwest Nebraska was discontinued on August 24, 1969, passenger service on the track stopped, but freight trains still used the railway. In 1980, plans were created to remove the tunnel and construct a larger, double-track line, but it was built west of the old rail line, leaving the tunnel standing. The tunnel is now used by the railway as a service road.
Built in 1893, Bethel Church was the product of early pioneer spirit. It began as a Methodist Church and was later operated by both the American Sunday School Union and the American Missionary Society before services ceased in the early 2000s. A complete renovation by the rural community that surrounds it has restored the church for use today as a community center.
Chadron’s Art Alley was created in 2019 as part of the Paint the Town Project to showcase #Chadronmade art. The alley is located on the west side of Main Street and now has several public art murals for residents and visitors to enjoy and use as the unique backdrops for all those selfies! The project has several more murals planned so come back often to see what they’ve added. And if you happen to be in Northwest Nebraska on a weekend they are painting, come join in. This is truly a public art effort, and the steering committee welcomes members of the public to help paint the murals, regardless of age or skill level. It’s a great way to create a unique Northwest Nebraska experience!
CHADRON DOWNTOWN HISTORIC DISTRICT
Chadron, known as the Magic City, blossomed in pioneer days after the railroad arrived. Homesteaders who originally settled about five miles farther west picked up and moved all their homes, businesses and possessions in one day in 1885 after the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad announced its intentions to build its depot and town to the east.
In 2007, the city’s downtown district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A self-guided walking tour takes visitors to the downtown to more than 40 sites that display the architectural features that earned the district its spot on the National Register.
A brochure to guide you on your tour, which details the elements found at each of the building sites, can be picked up at the Chadron Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau.
For more than a century, Chadron State College has helped exceptional students build their futures and soar in their careers.
Chadron State College, which was founded in 1911, is the only four-year, regionally-accredited college in the western half of Nebraska. As a public institution with its roots in teacher education, Chadron State takes pride in its accessibility and affordability. More than 3,000 undergraduate, graduate and online students currently attend Chadron State and its curriculum has grown to offer programs and courses in 65 majors and endorsements and eight master’s degree programs.
Chadron State is located in the scenic Pine Ridge of northwest Nebraska, where outdoor recreational activities abound. Dawes County has been selected as one of the nation’s top 100 counties in which to live and the campus is located just one hour’s drive south of one of America’s most famous landmarks, Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Chadron (pronounced SHAD-ren) is a community of about 6,000 people located on two major highways. With impetus from the college, the town offers many cultural opportunities and its charm makes it a desirable place to attend college and live.
The Eagles belong to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and NCAA Division II. Intercollegiate competition is available in football, basketball, wrestling, track and field and cross country for men and volleyball, basketball, track and field, cross country, golf and softball for women. For season releases, schedules and tickets click here.
CSC Arboretum & Heritage Gardens
For more than three decades, students, residents and visitors have enjoyed the beauty of the Chadron State College campus, which is an affiliate site of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.
The 281-acre campus is an award-winning affiliate site due to the ongoing collection development, maintenance practices and community engagement since its inception in 1978. The CSC Arboretum fulfills multiple missions: providing a teaching landscape, water and energy management and the development of wildlife habitat. All of those missions combine to provide a beautiful, peaceful environment for visitors to wander through and enjoy.
After the 2006 wildfire destroyed the wooded hills to the south of the campus, Arboretum staff and volunteers planted more than 50,000 new trees, and the landscape is now used as a resource to evaluate the recovering of grasslands and woodlands after fire.
At the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, the Heritage Gardens feature a collection of Sandhills plants collected near Mari’s grave and planted in Sandhills soils. An orchard with the same variety of apples Old Jules grew on his homestead is also featured on campus.
Botany, taxonomy and history students study plum trees, buffalo berries, chokecherries and currents, and how plant growth changed when the region was opened for permanent settlement. A pollinating garden attracts butterflies, bees and flies near the Eagle Ridge student housing complex.
Slopes near Coffee Ag Pavillion on the east edge of campus manages rain and snow fall to reduce water use, while cottonwoods and Ponderosa pines planted in the area will eventually serve as windbreaks and cover for wildlife.
The Planetarium at Chadron State College frequently features special Eclipse and Comet Shows. These special events are free to the public.
Public programs are generally offered during the CSC Academic year. Tickets must be purchased from the CSC Conferencing Office in advance of the show unless otherwise stated. All planetarium shows are presented by CSC students and/or faculty.
Hours: open by appointment Aug. 1 – Dec. 1 and February – May, and can service groups of 5-35 people. They can provide multiple shows for your audience if it is a larger group.
For more information, or to schedule your group, e-mail Jennifer Balmat or call (308) 432-6483.
LEGEND BUTTES GOLF COURSE
This nine-hole course is located at the base of the picturesque Legend Buttes west of Crawford, providing beautiful scenery to enjoy while you traverse its 3,178 yards of golf. The course is rated at 125 and has a par of 36. Legend Buttes Golf Course is open April 1 through Oct. 1. Reservations not required, but are appreciated.
Phone: (308) 665-2431; Address: 3440 Highway 20
RIDGEVIEW COUNTRY CLUB
This nine-hole golf course south of Chadron is home to the annual Don Beebe Golf Classic Tournament every Memorial Day weekend. Driving range, cart and club rentals are available. Typically open from May to October, depending on weather.
Phone: (308) 432-4468; Address: 16611 US Highway 385
Located at Chadron State College, the High Plains Herbarium contains the largest collections of ethnobotanical medicinal plants and historic pharmaceuticals in the entire state. Visitors can learn about the plants Native Americans and early settlers used as the main sources for alleviating pain and treating or curing other ailments. Former curator and CSC professor Ronald Weedon expanded the collection during his tenure from 2,400 species to more than 42,000.
Hours: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday year-round with the exception of school holidays. Availability of personnel during the summer may be limited due to field work. The herbarium entrance is room 131 of the Math and Science Building. Group tours are available and should be arranged in advance.
The High Plains Homestead is a living tribute to the Old West—rugged log buildings including a saloon and mercantile, old-fashioned candy, Native American pottery, a 1900s school house, wagons, windmills, and roaming buffalo. Guests can enjoy the quiet, open prairie with views of the Badlands and the ponderosas of Pine Ridge nearby. While the Homestead closely resembles a Cowtown of bygone eras, it’s not without many modern amenities. The Bunkhouses have private baths, refrigerators, and air conditioning, and there is a pool available for guests to enjoy. To offer total peace, quiet, and relaxation, though, phones and TVs are absent from the rooms; however, the Homestead provides free wireless internet access. Great for family vacations or group hunting trips, the Bunkhouses can accommodate gatherings of up to 20 people.
The Sandcreek Cookhouse serves up steaks and large portion meals, all homemade, every Wednesday through Sunday during the summer (winter hours are weather-dependent).
Arrangements can be made at the Badlands Mercantile to journey to the Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed or the Toadstool Geologic Park for fossil and rock-hunting excursions. Guests can also enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, and great photo and star-gazing opportunities.
In 1954, while attempting to dig a stockpond, Nebraska ranchers Bill Hudson and Albert Meng
uncovered a large pile of bones. During the 1970s, Dr. Larry Agenbroad of Chadron State College began excavating the site which is believed to be the bonebed of nearly 600 Bison antiquus, an extinct relative of today’s modern bison which perished more than 10,000 years ago. Considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in North America, the Hudson-Meng site has been enrolled on the National Register of Historic Places. Scientists and student excavators have been working with the Forest Service for decades to try to understand the exact nature of this mass kill site and the role that ancient Paleo-Indian people may have played. In 1997, a climate-controlled enclosure was completed to cover the central portion of the bonebed.
Visitors can learn more about this mysterious site and the archaeological techniques used to interpret by visiting the Hudson-Meng Education & Research Center.
Phone: 308-432-0300; Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Memorial Day through Oct. 1 Admission: $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, $3 for kids ages 5 to 12, and kids 4 and under are free.
The Bison Bone Bed Mystery
Mention the word library, and most folks think of nothing more than shelves of books. But as the world has changed, so too have our local libraries as they have become centers for makerspaces, educational classes, access to computer programs and the internet. If you’re visiting Northwest Nebraska and need internet or computer access or want to research the region, our local libraries are a great place to start.
The Chadron Public Library hosts yoga classes, virtual reality events, craft sessions and more. Its signature event, however, is the Trading Stories Native American Film Festival each October. For three days, the library screens documentaries and films, hosts speakers and offers traditional Native American food to pay tribute to the often-forgotten stories of the people who called this region home before European settlement.
With nearly 79,000 items in its collection, the Chadron Public Library is sure to hold something of interest for anyone. Online catalogs through Libby and Overdrive also available. Staff also host frequent events, including preschool story time each Thursday at 10:30 a.m., a Game/STEM Club on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m., and Lego Club on the first and third Mondays of each month, also at 6:30 p.m. The Friends of the Library also opens the annex next door to the library during the second weekend of each month with great bargains on books of every genre.
The Chadron Public Library is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Library cards are available to residents of Dawes, Sioux and Sheridan counties, as well as residents of Hemingford. For more information, contact the library at 308-432-0531, stop by at 507 Bordeaux Street or visit chadronpubliclibrary.com.
CRAWFORD PUBLIC LIBRARY
Research history of the area or use the library’s printing, copying, fax and WIFI services. The Crawford Library was originally constructed as the Christian Science Reading Room before being donated to the city by the prominent Hall family. There are separate adult and children’s areas, five networked public access computers and a collection that includes a wide variety of non-fiction works, periodicals and newspapers, a separate children’s collection and young people’s section, a large collection of general and mystery fiction, a large circulating paperback collection, and many videotapes, DVD’s and books-on-tape. Regular story hour activities are provided weekly during the school year.
Phone: 308-665-1780; Hours: Open Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-6 pm; Fridays 10 am – 3 pm; Address: 601 2nd St., Crawford
Located at Chadron State College, the King Library is primarily for use by students, staff and faculty at the college. The library does, however, offer three public use computers near the reference desk for research and educational purposes (no gaming, videos, etc.). Sign-in at the reference desk prior to using the public access computers. Hours may vary by semester. Click here for updated information.
SIOUX COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY
Children and adult collections, as well as access to online catalogs through Libby and Overdrive. Summer reading programs, seasonal activities and three public access computers.
Phone: 308-668-9431; Hours: Open Mondays 9 am – Noon & 1-5 pm; Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1-5 pm; Thursdays 3:30-6:30 pm; Fridays 9 am-1 pm; Saturdays 9 am – Noon; Address: 182 3rd St., Harrison
Located on the campus of Chadron State College, the Mari Sandoz Heritage Center is dedicated to the life and literature of one of Nebraska’s most important female authors and historians. Considered an authority on Native American culture, Mari Sandoz published numerous essays in defense of the persecuted groups of Cheyenne and Oglala Sioux, proclaiming their high-qualities and championing for just laws and government aid for them. Inspired by the wild frontier where she was born and raised, her short-stories also reflect an interest in homesteading, the harsh landscape, conflict and the importance of women in the West. Exhibits at the High Plains Heritage Center include writings and memorabilia from Mari’s lifetime, paleontology and fossil displays, botanical and wildflower collections and more.
In addition to the permanent exhibit chronicling Mari Sandoz’s life, the Heritage Center features rotating temporary art installations year-round.
Also located in the High Plains Heritage Center is the C.F. Coffee Gallery. The lower level of the center is dedicated to interpretive exhibits that explore the development of the cattle industry on the High Plains. Exhibits detail the movement of cattle from Texas to the High Plains, the open range era, and the transition to the ranching system we know today.
The lower level additionally features a collection of photos from local pioneer photographers Ray and Faye Graves. The couple owned an early photography studio in Chadron and documented life in Chadron and the surrounding areas, including the Pine Ridge Reservation. It is believed that one of the last known photos of Red Cloud was taken by the Graves
Photography Studio. A large collection of the glass plates used by the couple were unearthed in the 1970s during the demolition of a downtown building and are now housed at the Heritage Center. A small fraction of those have been printed and hung on the lower level.
Hours: Vary based on season. Click here for current info; Archives and Collections resources are available to the public by appointment during regular hours.
The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, or Montrose Church, is the only thing that remains of the pioneer town Montrose in northern Sioux County. Montrose was established in 1887 by immigrants from Austria, Germany and Luxembourg and named for its high elevation (mont) and native rose bushes. The church, which now sits in the middle of the Oglala National Grasslands, was constructed the same year. It still holds services once a year and is located near the Warbonnet and Yellow Hair Monuments, the site of a battle between soldiers of the 5th Cavalry, including Buffalo Bill Cody, and Cheyenne Indians.
The Post Playhouse, located at historic Fort Robinson, showcases local and national talent on the stage at one of the top venues for live theatre in the West. Each summer, the Playhouse presents a repertory schedule of concerts, musicals and plays featuring talented and creative professional performers. The Wizard of Oz, South Pacific, Always….Patsy Cline, and Oklahoma! are just a few of the famous shows that have performed at the Post Playhouse in the last decade.
CHADRON AREA AQUATIC AND WELLNESS CENTER
This indoor facility is open year-round and includes all sorts of features to keep swimmers of all ages entertained, including a 15-foot slide, a children’s slide, dump buckets and splash pad. The pool has a zero-depth entry, six lap lanes and a one-meter diving board. The facility also includes a therapy pool with warmer water temperatures and a walking track space around the pool deck. Classes at the Aquatic and Wellness Center include water aerobics, swimming lessons for all ages, and physical therapy. A multipurpose room is also available for rent for parties.
Passes are sold for families, couples and individual adults and youths at daily, monthly, quarterly and annual rates. Lap swim and water aerobics passes and walking passes are also available.
Summer Hours (Memorial Day to Labor Day)
Open Swim – Mondays Noon – 6 pm; Tuesday through Friday Noon – 7 pm; Saturdays Noon – 8 pm; Sundays Noon – 5 pm
Lap Swim – Monday through Friday 6-9 am; Monday through Saturday 11 am – Noon
Walking Track – Monday 6 am – 6 pm; Tuesday through Friday 6 am – 7 pm; Saturday 11 am – 8 pm; Sunday Noon – 5 pm
Water Aerobics – Monday through Friday 7-8 am and 8-9 am; Tuesdays & Thursdays 5:30-6:30 pm
For off-season and holiday hours click here.
CHADRON STATE PARK
Chadron State Park’s swimming pool offers visitors a beautiful view overlooking the pines. The pool is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, with reduced hours beginning in mid-August. Lifeguards are on duty.
CRAWFORD SWIMMING POOL
This outdoor swimming pool on the west edge of Crawford provides a view of the buttes while you’re relaxing deck-side. Open only during the summer months, the pool is located at 1005 First St. in Crawford and offers lap swimming/aerobics and open swim. Passes are available for the season and are also sold at a daily rate.
Lap Swim/Aerobics – Monday through Friday 11 am – Noon and 5-6 pm
Open Swim – 7 days a week 1-5 pm and 6-8 pm
FORT ROBINSON STATE PARK
The indoor, Olympic-size Lindeken Pool, complete with outdoor wading pool and sun deck, is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
HARRISON SWIMMING POOL
This outdoor pool is open only during the summer months and is conveniently located near at the city park, which provides tennis and basketball courts and picnic areas to make the day complete.