Nebraska July 09, 2017
The Incredible Sand Dunes Every Nebraskan Must Explore
When most people think of sand dunes, they almost certainly don’t picture Nebraska. Our state is known as flat prairie land, and it seems that the rest of the country doesn’t really understand just what a unique place we have here. The Nebraska Sandhills cover about a quarter of the state, and they are absolutely magnificent.
The best way to experience this lovely part of the state is on Nebraska Highway 2, also known as Nebraska Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.
The stretch of Highway 2 between Grand Island and Alliance has been called one of the 10 most scenic drives in the country. Since 1984, the Sandhills area has been a designated National Natural Landmark - it's one of those places that everyone should see at least once.
The Nebraska Sandhills are one of the largest plant-anchored sand dune regions in the world, and the largest sand dune formation in the Western Hemisphere. The dunes sit atop the Ogallala Aquifer, resulting in thousands of little lakes and ponds in lower-lying areas.
This unique combination of environmental factors makes the Sandhills region the largest, most intricate wetland ecosystem in the United States, according to US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Sandhills remain one of the wildest, most untamed parts of America. These dunes were once thought to be totally useless since the land could not be used to grow crops. As such, the vast majority of this area has never seen a plow - as much as 85% of the Sandhills region is intact natural habitat.
Early Nebraskans soon learned, however, that the Sandhills are perfect ranch land. Cattle thrive out here in "Nebraska's Outback." Today, more than 535,500 head of beef cows are living in the Sandhills.
This region dispels the myth that Nebraska is nothing but flat and boring. People seeing the beauty of the Sandhills for the first time are often amazed that this type of gorgeous scenery exists out here in the middle of the Great Plains.
The gently swooping hills range from barely-there bumps to impressively tall dunes up to 400 feet tall and up to 20 miles long. Driving down the byway is almost hypnotizing as you watch the undulating landscape roll by.
This NASA image shows just how impressive the Sandhills are even from space.
Nearly all of the land out here is privately owned, so you can't get out and explore on foot much unless you make prior arrangements with landowners.
Still, these dunes are impressive even from the car. If you're a nature lover, this place will likely bring about a sense of calm as you watch the hills swell and dip.
Stop by the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Interpretive Center in Broken Bow for a unique perspective on this frankly fascinating area. Exhibits and information examine six features of the byway: recreation, archaeology, natural, cultural, historical and scenic. The center is open May through September and admission is free.
If you’d like more information on the Sandhills themselves or on the spectacular Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway,
visit this site. Or just get out there and go for a long drive!
Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of the many beautiful natural areas that you can explore out in the Sandhills –
read more about it here.