Like the Central Sandhills Trail, this region mostly consists of the Nebraska Sandhills. The Sandhills region represents the largest natural ecosystem in the state, covering about 19,000 square miles, or almost a quarter of the state.
The Nebraska National Forest, Bessey Division (Thomas County) is a human-planed forest in the middle of the Sandhills, and a magnet for passerine birds during spring and fall migrations. The Dismal and Loup rivers provide local water sources and riparian vegetation for many grassland and shoreline birds, and sharp-tailed grouse have hundreds of display grounds throughout this region. The Nebraska National Forest is a good place for seeing sharp-tailed grouse, and sometimes also greater prairie-chickens, which display from late March until early May, with a peak in activity during mid-April. A grouse viewing blind is sometimes available.
Other typical Sandhills birds that might be encountered along this trail are described under the Long-billed Curlew Trail account. As noted there, Sandhills driving can be hazardous for people who are accustomed to driving on hard-top roads and navigating via well-marked highways. It is not uncommon to have to drive 50 miles to reach the nearest gas station or source of food and water.
Paul A. Johnsgard