Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest, Niobrara River

Located south of Nenzel in Cherry County, the 116,000-acre national forest is a fantastic representation of the unique Nebraska Sandhills prairie ecosystem. Popular uses of the forest include hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping and bird watching. There is one small campground located on the southwestern edge of the forest. Steer Creek Campground has 23 campsites, potable water, and the 1-mile Blue Jay hiking trail.

The Niobrara River Canoe Launch day use site on the Niobrara River for launching small water craft. Fishing is available in the adjacent Merritt Reservoir. Other attractions in this area include the Steer Creek Research Natural Area, and Lord Lakes wetland complex.

History: In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt issued a proclamation establishing the Niobrara Forest Reserve, later the Niobrara Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest. In 1971, President Richard Nixon designated the Niobrara Division the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest.

A close-up of a box turtle. The Steer Creek valley at sunrise. Bessey Ranger District - Steer Creek Campground Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest, Niobrara River

At a Glance

Closest Towns: Halsey, NE; Valentine, NE; Nenzel, NE 
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Central Standard Time
Bessey Ranger District
40637 River Loop Rd
Halsey, NE 69142
(308) 533-2257

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Horse Riding & Camping

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Nature Viewing

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Water Activities

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