Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Area Status: Open

Located south of Nenzel in Cherry County, this 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, 8 horse corrals, 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 nearby Merritt Reservoir. The Lord Lakes wetland complex has been recognized for its outstanding fishing.

A close-up of a box turtle. The Steer Creek valley at sunrise.

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Open 24 / 7 
Reservations: None required
Fees: None, unless you are camping at Steer Creek Campground
Usage: Light-Medium
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


Campground Camping

Areas for Campground Camping at Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Dispersed Camping

Lake and Pond Fishing

Fishing is popular in the nearby Merritt Reservoir.

Status: Open
Fees: Some areas require a state park sticker and a few are free

Day Hiking

Areas for Day Hiking at Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest


Horse Riding

Areas for Horse Riding at Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Big Game Hunting

Small Game Hunting

Viewing Wildlife

Bird watching is popular.

Boating - Non-Motorized

Areas for Boating - Non-Motorized at Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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