The Nebraska Panhandle is an expanse upon the central plains of Nebraska. It features what some would call a never ending sky amid deep canyons and pine forests. It is often considered the most scenic area of Nebraska.
|Pine Ridge Indian Reservation |
Home of the Oglala Lakota
|Wildcat Hills |
Known for its scenic rock formations
|Niobrara River Valley |
World renowned hunting and fishing, a must for any outdoorsman
- 1 Alliance - home of the infamous Carhenge
- 2 Bayard - near Chimney Rock National Historic Site
- 3 Chadron - a mid-sized town known for Chadron State College
- 4 Crawford - Village near the historic Fort Robinson
- 5 Gering - The smaller, older twin of Scottsbluff, good history
- 6 Kimball - The tiny county seat of Kimball County with modern golf course and welcome center
- 7 Scottsbluff - a decent sized town located near Scotts Bluff National Monument
- 8 Sidney - home of Cabela's, Nebraska's largest flagpole, and Historic Fort Sidney
This region of Nebraska is sparsely populated. Therefore, many places you go have a down home, small town feel. Though the small town feel will be appealing to most, it also means there is a lack of diversity.
Unlike the rest of Nebraska, the Panhandle mostly falls under the Mountain Time Zone (UTC-7), meaning this area is 1 hour "behind" the rest of the state.
There is a small but sizable minority of Hispanic people moving to the area yet not enough for a knowledge of the Spanish language to be required. The Oglala Lakota are a prominent Native American tribe in the region so you may want to learn some of their language and customs if you plan on visiting Pine Ridge. Also, at one time there was a large influx of Scandinavian and German immigrants to the region, and there are still some areas that have a few elderly speakers of these languages.
The recommended mode of transport through this area is by car. However, keep in mind that there areas of interest that can only be observed either by hiking or horseback riding. There are still some railroads that stop in this area.
- 1 Chimney Rock National Historic Site, 9822 County Rd 75 Bayard, NE 69334 (head south from Bayard on US-26, at the junction of NE-92 and US-26, head east and take the first left onto NE-62F), ☏ , email@example.com. May-Sep: daily 9AM-4PM; Oct-Apr: M-F 9AM-4PM. The landmark stone spire that has served as a guide for travelers on the Oregon Trail. This geologic formation seems to stand alone in the prairie, visible for hundreds of miles. The visitors center tells of the great migration west and the settlement of the area. The visitor center is about half a mile (1 km) from the rock itself. Watch for rattlesnakes. Pricing is for visitor's center only. $8 adults, $4 children.
- 2 Scotts Bluff National Monument, 190276 Old Oregon Trail (Scottsbluff County Road K/Old NE-92) (easy to get to; from Scottsbluff, take NE-71 toward the Gering Ramp; then follow until the Oregon Trail Museum, turn right). Overlook of the trifecta.
- 3 Carhenge, 2159 Box Butte County Road 59 or Neb 87 in Alliance (from Downton Alliance, take 3rd Street to Flack Ave), ☏ . Daily 8AM-7PM. It is a really great monument and satirical version of England's Stonehenge. It is completely made of real cars. $0.
- 4 Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, 301 River Road, Harrison, ☏ , fax: . Daily dawn until dusk; Visitor Center: Memorial Day-Labor Day daily 8AM-6PM; off season daily 8AM-4PM; closed Christmas, New Year's Day, and Thanksgiving. Fossils of ancient mammals, Native American history, hiking. There is no camping at the monument. Free.
- No trip to this region would be complete without stopping at the Toadstool Geologic Park in the Oglala National Grasslands northwest of Chadron.
- Stop in at any of the numerous Dude Ranches in this region and have a home cooked meal on the plains.
- The adventurous may want to try Kayaking on the Niobrara River.
- Hop over to Sidney and catch a show at the Cabaret Theatre.
Nebraska is known for its beef. While most of it is processed in Omaha, a lot of it is raised on ranches in the panhandle. This area is known for its authentic cowboy-style meals. Portions tend to be large and the food is heavy. Also Rocky Mountain Oysters are a popular and sometime humorous dish to consume in the Panhandle. They are fried bull testicles. Eating them is generally a sign of fertility and courage. Runzas, a German bread pocket full of beef and vegetables, are also popular throughout this region.
One thing to observe while ordering a beer in Nebraska is that beer poured into a glass is usually referred to as a draw.
This area is known for hazardous winter conditions and hot summers although seasonable weather is far from rare. Weather conditions can change quite quickly so keep informed. Various poisonous snakes including Rattlesnakes and dangerous animals such as mountain lion and big horn sheep are found in this region especially in the hills. Caution is advised during outdoor excursions. Crime in this area is considerably lower than other areas of the nation. Locals are often willing to aid those in need however the low population density means fewer amenities including hospitals.
The Panhandle region of Nebraska is usually passed through on the way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial if you're coming from Texas or on the way to Yellowstone if you are coming from the Eastern Seaboard.