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Bessey Ranger District



Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest-

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General Information

Description -

Recreation -

This information is provided by the US National Forest Service

Camping The Whitetail Campground near the Dismal River, and the Natick Campground, west of the 4-H Camp are available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition to horse corrals, both of these campgrounds have hand-pump water wells, fire rings, picnic tables and modern vault toilets. Firewood is not provided. There is a camping fee for these areas. Hiking and Biking Contact the District directly for information regarding the Scott Lookout National Recreation Trail and Dismal OHV Trail. Biking—Mainly on the established hard-surface roads due to the unstable nature of the sand. Also, roads are narrow and view distances are short on some roads. Horse Riding and Camping Horseback is a great way to explore the Sandhills prairie and hand-planted national forest of the Bessey Ranger District. Horses can go "barefoot" in the sandy soils and stock water is generally available at the 200+ windmills that serve permitted cattle. Corrals are available at two campgrounds, Natick and Whitetail. Beginning in 2004, the Forest requires certified weed-free feed for recreational stock. The Farm and Ranch network at 1-800-658-3191 or www.agnet.net is a source for locating certified feeds. Hunting: Big Game, Upland Game, and Varmint All areas are open for public hunting and fishing under State rules and regulations. Shooting a firearm within 150 yards of a developed recreation site or across a forest road is prohibited (36 CFR 261.10.d.1). Big Game archery and firearm opportunities include white-tailed and mule deer, antelope, and Merriam's wild turkey. Big Game - See Nebraska Game and Parks for license information. There are both whitetail and mule deer on the Forest. Upland Game - Sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chicken hunting are very popular. The Forest Service asks hunters to participate in a voluntary wing count during hunting season. This count allows managers to determine the relative hunting success from year to year as well as the ratio of young-of-the-year birds to adults, which is an indicator of reproductive success. Off Highway Vehicle Travel The Bessey RD has one developed trail that is 11 miles long extending from the Dismal River Trail Head, 1 ½ miles south of the recreation complex, to Whitetail Campground. Forest Service roads off-limits to OHVs are 203, 212, 259, and 277 and State Spur 86B (the one to Scott Tower). No motorized vehicles are allowed inside the 203 Circle Road from September 1 through November 30 unless authorized by the District Ranger. OHVs must only ride to and from the trailhead and campsites. They may not be used for transportation around the campgrounds, going to the bathrooms, or swimming pool. Quiet time must be observed between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Helmets and goggles are strongly encouraged. Special Places Scott Lookout Tower was built in 1920. Tours are available upon request. The Charles E. Bessey Nursery was established in 1902 as part of the Dismal River Forest Reserve. It is the oldest seedling nursery managed by the USDA Forest Service. The Nursery was established to produce the tree seedlings used to create the "World's Largest Man-Made Forest", the adjacent Bessey Ranger District. The Nursery and Ranger District were named in honor of Charles E. Bessey, a professor of horticulture at the University of Nebraska who envisioned a forest growing on the wide-open Sandhills of Nebraska. The Nursery is located about one mile west of Halsey, Nebraska, near the geographic center of the state. The area is characterized by rolling sand dunes covered with grasses. Blowout penstemon (Penstemon haydenii), the rarest plant species native to the Great Plains, grows only in the Nebraska Sandhills and is the only endangered plant in the state. Now growing only in the open, sandy habitat of blowouts--the rounded, wind-excavated depressions in dune tops--natural populations presently are restricted to Box Butte, Cherry, Garden, Morrill, and Thomas counties. It was classified as endangered in 1987. Wildlife Watching Grouse blinds for viewing sharp-tailed grouse and Greater Prairie chicken are set up right on the lek. The blinds are available from March through May. Contact the ranger station for directions.

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More Information

Contact Information:
Bessey Ranger District & Charles E Bessey Tree Nursery, PO Box 39 , Halsey, NE, 69142, Phone: 308-432-0300

Additional Information:
Nebraska National Forest - The Nebraska National Forest administers 1.1 million acres in Nebraska and South Dakota: the Oglala, Buffalo Gap, and Fort Pierre National Grasslands and the Nebraska and Samuel R. McKelvie National Forests.

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