The Nebraska Sandhills region represents the largest natural ecosystem in the state, covering nearly 19,000 square miles, or almost a quarter of the state. It is also the largest remaining grassland ecosystem in the country that is still virtually intact both faunistically and floristically. It is a land with far fewer people than cattle, where the roads are few and where tourist facilities and accommodations are almost non-existent. Those roads that do exist are little-traveled and often consist of only slightly improved sandy trails leading to ranches.

The Sandhills region is filled with breathtaking vistas, spectacular bird populations in the hundreds of lakes and marshes, and a pioneer spirit that requires everyone to help his or her neighbor, or indeed any stranger who happens to fall afoul of trouble while on the road. It is a land adapted to naturalists who would like to study virtually unaltered prairie ecosystems, and who are prepared to deal with nature on its own terms. A summary of the natural history of the Nebraska Sandhills, along with an annotated bird checklist (277 species) is found in P. Johnsgard’s This Fragile Land: A Natural History of the Nebraska Sandhills.

Title Category Address Description
Ashfall State Historical Park 42.422, -98.158 This extremely important paleontological SITE preserves the fossils of horses, rhinos, camels, and other animals interred under a thick layer of volcanic dust that settled here about ten million years ago.
American Game Marsh Wildlife Management Area 42.308, -100.065 It consists of a large Sandhills marsh and surrounding grassland. No facilities.
Ash Hollow State Historical Park 41.295, -102.121 This historically interesting park has a wide variety of habitats, from exposed rocky bluffs that are used by great horned owls, American kestrels, and sometimes prairie falcons.
Atkinson State Recreation Area 42.538, -99 54 acres It includes a 14-acre reservoir of the Elkhorn River. State park entry permit required.
Ballard's Marsh Wildlife Management Area 42.597, -100.55 Includes a large marsh and adjoining Sandhills grasslands. Campground present.
Big Alkali Wildlife Management Area 42.638, -100.609 Consists of 47 lakeside acres plus a 800-acre Sandhills lake. Whooping cranes and sandhill cranes have been seen here during fall migration.
Bowman Lake State Recreation Area 41.276, -98.992 A small SRA just outside (0.5 mile west) of Loup City.
Bowring Ranch State Historical Park 42.958, -101.672 Trumpeter swans forage on a marsh just north of this park, which is a working cattle ranch.
Calamus Outfitters 41.933, 99.283 The Calamus River and Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area are nearby. On-ranch activities are offered.
Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area/Wildlife Management Area 41.871, -99.259 Total acreage includes a 5,124-acre reservoir. Developed for fishing; no hiking trails.
Chester Island Wildlife Management Area 40.991, -100.391 Includes 0.3 mile of river frontage.
Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area 41.296, -102.029 The low meadows support nesting bobolinks and probably breeding Wilson's snipes, and the tall tree groves hold many breeding passerines.
Cottonwood Canyon Wildlife Management Area 41.002, -100.522 Mountain bluebirds, eastern bluebirds, Townsend's solitaires and cedar waxwings often spend winters in these canyons. There are small, man-made lakes near the mouth of each canyon.
Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area 42.914, -101.676 Canada geese breed here. Five miles east of Merriman is a marsh where trumpeter swans have nested, off the north side of U.S. Highway 20.
Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge 41.728, -102.343 This is one of the great wildlife refuges in America, and it supports a greater bird diversity than any other Nebraska site except the Lake McConaughy area.
Davis Creek Reservoir State Recreation Area 41.429, -98.764 Mostly grassy areas surrounding a reservoir. The WMA includes about 2,000 acres; the SRA 1,145 acres.
Double R Guest Ranch 42.3061409,-100.991826 The Double R Guest Ranch is a 5,000 acre private Sandhills ranch in secluded Cherry County.
Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park 41.723, -99.024 Mainly of interest for historical reasons, but passerines should be present seasonally.
Fremont Slough Wildlife Management Area 41.097, -100.667 Area 41 acres.
Goose Lake Wildlife Management Area 42.111, -98.564 Area 349 acres. Mostly lake area; also grassy and wooded uplands.
Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area 42.36, -98.107 Mainly mixed hardwoods and grasslands along Verdigre Creek.
Jeffrey Canyon Wildlife Management Area 40.952, -100.399 This area consists of canyon-and-upland topography, with grasses and scattered deciduous trees and cedars. The lake is part of an irrigation canal system.
Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area 41.249, -101.806 This area has the largest bird list of any location in the state, including about 340 species, with 104 known breeders, 17 additional possible breeders, and about 200 transients.
Lake View Campground 41.241, -101.858 The road leading down the canyon to Lake View, and a similar road leading Eagle Canyon six miles farther west.
Loup Junction Wildlife Management Area 41.269, -98.411 Mostly riparian wooded habitats, with marshes and grassy areas.
Merritt Reservoir Wildlife Management Area 42.602, -100.885 The reservoir attracts migrant waterfowl, pelicans, western grebes, and other species.
Milburn Diversion Dam Wildlife Management Area 41.756, -99.777 Consists of 672 acres of Middle Loup River Valley, with extensive mud flats present around the reservoir.
Nebraska National Forest, Bessey District 41.874, -100.374 Grasslands around and in this planted coniferous "forest" surrounded by sand dunes.
North River Wildlife Management Area 41.202, -100.984 There are woods along the river, and grassland beyond that is used by sandhill cranes.
Ogallala Strip Wildlife Management Area 41.109, -101.766 This stretch of riparian wooded habitats supports many of the same species found around Lake Ogallala, such as house wren, yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, eastern and western kingbirds, killdeer, and others.
Oshkosh Sewage Lagoons 41.396, -102.344 Three lagoons are accessible by walking. They attract a surprising array of waterfowl, including breeding wood ducks and even nesting ruddy ducks.
Pibel Lake State Recreation Area 41.758, -98.531 Pibel Lake is a beautiful lake in the Sandhills with a variety of waterbirds present during spring and summer.
Pressey Wildlife Management Area 41.183, -99.708 Consists of 1700 acres of land, including hills and steep canyons mostly covered by grasslands of the South Loup Valley.
Samuel R. McKelvie District, Nebraska National Forest 42.633, -101.033 This section of forest is similar to that of the Bessey District, but is not so rich in migrants.
Schlagel Creek Wildlife Management Area 42.719, -100.613 Consists of Sandhills grassland, including two miles of Schlegel Creek. No facilities for camping are present.
Scotia Canal Wildlife Management Area 41.554, -98.774 Near the North Loup River, and mostly covered by grassy uplands and mixed wooded habitats.
Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Area and Wildlife Management Area 41.323, -98.903 Mostly rolling prairie grasslands, with woody growth along creeks. Includes 10 hiking trails.
Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area 42.407, -102.455 The area has a 222 acre lake, surrounding marshy and grasslands, and some wooded habitats. There are primitive camping facilities and toilets.
Sutherland Reservoir State Recreation Area 41.106, -101.134 Ten gull species have been observed here. These include such rarities as Thayer's, glaucous, great and lesser black-backed, and even Ross's gull.
Valentine National Wildlife Refuge 42.505, -100.582 This is Nebraska's largest national wildlife refuge, and one that rivals Crescent Lake in its bird diversity, with at least 221 bird species reported.
Victoria Springs State Recreation Area 41.61, -99.751 An historic site. State park entry permit required.
Willow Lake Wildlife Management Area 42.237, -100.081 A Sandhills lake and surrounding grassland.