Nebraska National Forest 1.0

Bessey Ranger District
(308) 533-2257

Located 1 mile west of Halsey. Take State Spur 86B off of NE Hwy 2 and drive south across the Middle Loup River. The forest office is located just to the left (east) of the entrance to the forest after you cross the river.
The forest consists of more than 90,000 acres with about 22,000 acres of hand-planted trees in the scenic Sandhills. This is the only “Hand-Planted” forest in the World. It’s also home to the oldest Federal tree nursery that’s been developed into a source for conservation tree seedlings. Ranchers and farmers across the country use the seedlings to establish windbreaks and wildlife planting as well as a source to re-forest National Forests in the Rocky Mountain Region.

This is a wonderful place for relaxation, sightseeing, bird and wildlife watching, hunting, fishing and photography. You can bike, ride horseback (bring your own horse), and there is an 11-mile Dismal River ATV/horseback/hiking trail. Scott Tower, just 3 miles south of the Bessey Recreation Complex on State Spur 86B, is the only active fire tower in Nebraska and is open for tours upon request. There are also volleyball and horseshoe pits, a game field and 37 campsites with and without electricity and an RV dump station. There is a shower house with flush toilets, as well. Two thirds of these campsites can be reserved through the reservation system. There are two other campgrounds on the forest: Natick Campground with seven sites and Whitetail Campground with 10 sites. These campgrounds offer a more primitive camping experience with no running water or showers and no electrical hook-ups. There are corrals at each of these campgrounds for horseback riding enthusiasts. Whitetail Campground is at the southern end of the ATV/horseback/hiking trail.

Stop by the Forest office or call 308-533-2257 for more information and maps. Detailed maps are available and recommended for backcountry travel. Fees are collected for day use and camping. Call for current fees. Camp sites are also available. West of the main office a couple miles in the Nebraska State 4-H Camp. Cabins are available for rental. For information call (308) 533-2224. Many different camps are held here both for youth and adults.

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Thedford Art Gallery
(308) 645-2586
509 Court St, NE Hwy 2
Open: May-Dec, Tues-Sat 9am-5pm; Jan-Apr, Tues 10am – 4pm (weather permitting)
Features original bronzes, pottery, paintings and photography from local artists. Art Guild was incorporated in 1966, with art shows throughout the year. Handicap accessible.

Thedford Golf Course
½ mile south of NE Hwy 2 & US Hwy 83 junction
Nebraska’s friendliest course offers 9-hole grass greens and fairways, and link style design that follows the natural lay of the Sandhills landscape. Greens Fees Weekdays $15 all day, Weekends $20 all day. Cart rental available at Sandhill Oil, (308) 645-2233.

Thomas County Historical Society Museum
(308) 645-2477
609 Court St (NE Hwy 2)
Open during the summer, Memorial Day to Labor Day. Winter – by appointment only. (308) 645-2489 (308) 645-2459
Former home of respected area ranchers, Chester and Ida Paxton. The museum depicts the history of the Sandhills region, including many relics used by the settlers, and local newspapers dating back to 1887. Handicap accessible

Bar None Hat Company
39313 Hwy 2, Thedford
Custom hat maker, Kaycee Orr-Hoffman is a master at her craft, building top quality beaver and beaver blend hats one-at-a-time.  Kaycee is also a pro at renovations.  Bring in your old hat and see what she can do.

Sandhills Smiles Photography
Julie Hesseltine
P O Box 204, 505 Walnut Street
Thedford, NE  69166
Capturing and preserving images for the Family Tree is what Sandhills Smiles Photography is all about!  The Studio is open by appointment only in an effort to work with everyone’s “busy in life schedules.”  Prices are very reasonable.  Call or email for brochure about rates.

Thomas County Fairgrounds
The fair building, pavilion and arena are available for rental year-round.  For more information, contact Alice Hodges at (308)645-7397.  The Thomas County Fairgrounds is located in the Nebraska Sandhills at the crossroads of Highway 83 and Highway 2, one mile east of Thedford.

The main building at the fairgrounds is available year-round for family reunions, wedding receptions, meetings, conferences, craft fairs and other special events.  The building includes one large room, approximately 100′ X 50′ with a seating capacity of 250-300.  There are 300 chairs and 20 tables.  Stage, podium, and sound system are all available.  A full kitchen is located near the main entrance.  It includes plenty of counter space, stove, refrigerator, microwave, double sinks and pop cooler.  There is also a pass through window for snack bar style service.  Men and women restrooms are available in lobby area.

The open-air pavilion is located beside the main building.  It measures 50′ X 150′ and is enclosed on one end with a stage.  There are eight folding picnic tables and 60 plastic chairs.  Lights and electrical outlets are located throughout the Pavilion.  Windscreens have been installed along the length of the pavilion to ensure weather will not interfere with your event.

The arena is available for rodeo, bull riding, team roping, horsemanship clinics and horse shows.  The arena is fully lite and suitable for evening events.  There is seating capacity for 300 with two sections of bleachers, one covered.  There are six livestock pens for bucking stock and four pens for timed-events, roping box and four bucking chutes.  The crow’s nest has lights and electrical outlets.  There is plenty of room for parking and camping on the grounds.

Dawn E. Bryant Originals
(308) 530-2380
Dawn E. Bryant Originals offers handmade jewelry in stone and silver, bronze, copper and wire wrap, as well as fine art and photography,

A special events rental is new in town.  Let Bridget Licking help you take the worry out of your weddings, showers and banquet decorating needs.  Call (308) 645-9073 for more information.


Northern Plains Studio
(308) 639-3227
210 Broadway Street, north of Seneca on the Middle Loup River.
Open by chance or appointment
Call for a tour of Jackie Sevier’s riverside studio showcasing her pastels, mixed media and printmaking. Her fresh, award-winning work features Western and Native American inspirations.

Yellow Calf Studio

(308) 645-2537   Linda Egle – call for appointment
South of NE Hwy 2, east of Seneca
Sculptor and Rancher, Linda Egle’s fine bronze sculptures depicts Sandhills ranch life.

Critter Corral
100 Adrian Street. Open summer months beginning Memorial Day. Call for hours and directions.
Handmade ride able “critters.”