Burwell, Nebraska is located in the upper third of the state in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills. The town has a population of under 2,000 residents, but it has a growing economy. It is known as the town “Where the Wild West meets the 21st Century.”
The Sandhills area in Burwell is a mixture of prairie with tall grasses and sand dunes. Some of the Sandhills are over 300 feet tall, and they are mostly covered with grass. They have been used as rangeland for longhorn cattle since the late 1800s when it was discovered that they were not good for cultivating crops. Many settlers tried farming after the 1904 Kincaid Act allowed homesteaders to claim 640 acres of land. Unfortunately, none of their attempts were successful until recent years due to improved irrigation systems.
In 1874, Fort Hartsuff was built to protect the settlers in the area from Indian attacks. The Burlington railroad was also extended into the town in 1887, but it stopped at Burwell and did not go any farther. It was used as a turntable, which is still intact. Settlers began building homes, churches, and business in the late 1800s.
The most important attraction is the annual rodeo. This event is very important to the town’s economy. Burwell is known as the Outdoor Rodeo Capital of Nebraska. The big event is held on the last weekend in July each year. There are horse races that many enjoy seeing, such as the Canadian Chuck Wagon Races, Wild Horse Races, Trick Riders, and the Dinner Bell Derby. Motorcycle races are another attraction that draws tourists to the area. Since Burwell has a Western culture, it is common to see residents wearing cowboy hats and Western clothing year round. The town’s high school has a junior rodeo for high school students each year as well. There is a bronze statue placed in a downtown area that is six feet high and features a cowboy riding a bucking horse. The sculpture is placed on a huge stone of granite and is located at the entrance to the downtown business area.
The Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area is around six miles northwest of Burwell. It is one of the best state parks in Nebraska with its lake that is over 5,000 acres in size with rolling Sandhills around it. Visitors can enjoy fishing, camping, boating, hiking, and sightseeing in the area. Visitors may also enjoy seeing the Calamus Fish Hatchery which is maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Fish are raised at the hatchery, and visitors have the opportunity to tour the main hatchery building.
Lodging is available for visitors who are spending time in Burwell. The Autumn Leaf Bed and Breakfast is located only 10 minutes from Calamus Lake or just a short walk to North Loup River where guests can bird watch, hunt, or fish. The facility has a rustic lodge setting and features a full breakfast. There are only three rooms in this lodge. Another lodging option that is only one-half mile from Calamus Lake and Reservoir is the Calamus Lodge. It is a small eight room motel, and the facility also has a small rental cabin and restaurant that features a full bar. A campground is attached to this area for those who have recreational vehicles or want to camp in tents. Additional places to stay are the Snyder Street Cottage, a facility that can handle six people, or The Rodeo Inn, a hotel with 20 rooms. Nebraska is pretty much dead center in the US of A so its easy to get to regardless of where you live. Cheap flights from all across America can fly you to Nebraska with ease.
Anyone who wants to experience true Western culture will enjoy a visit to Burwell, Nebraska!