DescriptionIn portions of the northwest quadrant of the state three units totaling 352,252 acres—the Pine Ridge and Bessey ranger districts and the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest—make up Nebraska's portion of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, which also includes units in South Dakota.
In the northwest corner of the state, the Pine Ridge Ranger District encompasses lands that vary from the short and mixed-grass prairie of the Oglala National Grassland to the ponderosa pine forests of the Pine Ridge formation. Within this district are two specially designated areas, the 7,794-acre Soldier Creek Wilderness and the 6,600-acre Pine Ridge National Recreation Area.
In the north-central part of the state the Bessey Ranger District and its subdivision, the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest, contain one of the world's largest hand-planted forests. Since 1902 more than 20,000 acres of Nebraska's rolling sandhills have been planted with a variety of evergreens.
A legacy of this effort is the Charles E. Bessey Tree Nursery, at the district headquarters 1 mile west of Halsey. The nursery provides seedlings for reforestation in national forests in the Rocky Mountain region and for sale to Nebraska Natural Resources Districts and nearby states. Producing 2.5 million seedlings each year, it is the oldest federal nursery.
Nearby is the forest's largest developed recreation area, which offers camping and picnicking 1 mile west of Halsey. Other recreational opportunities are available on the Niobrara River and Merritt Reservoir.
Details about campgrounds and recreational opportunities are available at the Bessey, Pine Ridge and Samuel R. McKelvie ranger stations and the forest headquarters in Chadron. For more information contact the Forest Supervisor, Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, 125 N. Main St., Chadron, NE 69337-2118; phone (308) 432-0300, or TTY (308) 432-0304.