Recreation & Sightseeing
Lake & Water Sports
The lakes and rivers offer excitement and relaxation for the whole family!
Water skiing, Wakeboarding, Wind surfing – you’ll find it all at
Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area
With more than 5,000 acres of water surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches, Calamus is the second longest lake in Nebraska. Pronounced Cal-Uh-muss, the name refers to a native plant: it’s an Indian word meaning food of the muskrat.” The lake is part of a 4,000-acre recreational area in the Nebraska Sandhills, perfect to enjoy your favorite water sport.
The lake is fed by the Calamus River, which is fed by water from the massive Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies the Sandhills region. That means that even though the lake is used to irrigate area farms, there’s still plenty of water in both the river and the lake even in the driest months.
Five boat ramps are open from spring to fall. Speeds in excess of five miles per hour are prohibited in the fishing areas of the lake. Campers enjoy two modern and two primitive campgrounds, a total of 122 pads with electrical hookups, and 55 primitive sites. Modern restrooms and showers are available at one of the campgrounds. The office, shower building and dump station are open from the last Friday in April through September 15th.
During the months of July, August and September, the naturally sand-bottomed lake is surrounded by more than 26 miles of white sand beaches that rival oceanfront properties. The lake also has a designated swimming area and opportunities for hiking and picnicking. Birdwatchers enjoy eagles, ospreys and waterfowl in season: cormorants are also common. Hunting is allowed in season.
Calamus Reservoir, formed by the Virginia Smith Dam, is six miles northwest of Burwell on Highway 96. A state park entry permit is required to enter any state owned or operated property. For more information on the Calamus call 308.346.5666.
Interested in camping at the Calamus? Check out all the options.
Canoeing & Tubing
Canoeing and tubing is a fun and relaxing way to spend any afternoon in the Burwell area. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery as you relax on the waters of the North Loup and/or Calamus River. Take your own trip down one of Burwell’s rivers or contact anyone of our local outfitters for a guided tour. For more information on canoeing or tubing the North Loup and/or Calamus River contact 308.346.5210.
Nebraska’s Big Rodeo
The excitement returns July 22-25, 2015 as contestants from near and far show off their talents at the Rodeo Grounds in Burwell.
Golf, Scenic Tours & Parks
Test your skills on the 9-hole course, or check out the swimming pool & ball fields or local scenic tours.
Burwell City Park
Located on the north side of town is the Burwell City Park, open to the public. Burwell’s city park is bordered by the North Loup River and includes a number of enjoyable activities including 2 tennis courts, a Frisbee Golf Course, a new playground, a baseball field and a fishing pond. Burwell’s City Park also includes picnic facilities and camping facilities.
Located in the Burwell City Park area is the Burwell Swimming Pool. The Burwell Swimming Pool facilities include 2 diving boards, a baby pool and locker room facility. Community members and visitors can participate in Red Cross swimming lessons and adult aerobics. The Burwell Swimming Pool is open daily Memorial Day weekend through mid-August. For additional information contact the Burwell City Hall at 308.346.4509.
Calamus Golf Course
Located 7 miles northwest of Burwell and directly east of the Calamus Reservoir SRA is the Calamus Golf Course. The course is open April 1st – November 1st each year. The Calamus Golf Course features a 2,845 yard course with fully watered bluegrass fairways and bent grass greens along with water hazards and grass bunkers. The newly completed clubhouse offers refreshments and food and is open weekday afternoons and all day on weekends. The clubhouse is available to rent for business meetings, receptions and other events. For additional information on the Calamus Golf Course contact 308.346.5559 or 308.346.4705.
Kamp Kaleo, 2 miles east of Burwell offers more than 200 acres of woods and grasslands, stretching over a mile of riverfront. Set in the Sandhills of Nebraska, Kamp Kaleo calls out to yearning spirits seeking retreat from life’s stress. Kamp Kaleo is the perfect setting for meetings, learning retreats, family, school and church reunions as well as special camp experiences. For further information on Kamp Kaleo call 308.346.5083.
Loup Rivers Scenic Byway
The Loup Rivers Scenic Byway acquired its name from the North, Middle and South Loup Rivers swirling through the heart of Nebraska’s Sandhills. The view along the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway is breathtaking as the rivers pass through the gently rolling farmland and Sandhills. Habitat along the river makes the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway a home for countless wildlife. The Loup Rivers Scenic Byway stretches 150 miles along Highway 11 from Wood River (along I-80 west of Grand Island) to Burwell, then along Highway 91 from Burwell to Dunning. At the point, you’ll have arrived at the junction of highway 2 (another scenic route) and will be close to the Bessey Division of the Nebraska National Forest.
Garfield County was established in 1881 and Burwell was defined as the county seat after the Burlington railroad laid tracks on the south side of the river to Burwell in 1887. As the only incorporated town in Garfield County, Burwell is home to many historical sites for families to enjoy while driving through the sandhills. Interested in more history of Burwell, read on at Virtual Nebraska.
Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park
Located 11 miles southeast of Burwell is Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park. From 1874-1881 Fort Hartsuff served as a buffer zone between the settlers and the Indians in the North Loup River valley. During this time soldiers patrolled the Loup and Cedar River Valleys and pioneered a new trail to the Black Hills gold fields. In 1961 the fort was restored and designated as a historical park to recognize its importance in Nebraska’s history. For more information call 308.346.4715.
Listed on Nebraska’s National Register is the Burwell Bridge. On June 25, 1939, floodwaters washed out the existing Highway 11 bridge over the North Loup River on the northern edge of Burwell. No effort was made to replace the structure until the following winter, in March 1940 engineers for the Nebraska Department of Roads and Irrigation designed a new steel bridge. The structure consisted of three steel stringer spans, supported by concrete abutments and piers. With a thirty-degree skew, the Burwell Bridge featured a seventy-three-foot span in the center suspended by cantilevered arms from the outside spans, for a maximum span of 109 feet. The Burwell Bridge represents one of the longest cantilevered beam structures identified in the statewide bridge inventory. It is technologically significant for its representation of long-span beam bridge experimentation conducted by the state engineer’s office in the 1930s.
Garfield County Frontier Fairgrounds
One of the most prominent places in Burwell and listed on Nebraska’s National Register is the Garfield County Frontier Fairgrounds. The idea of a permanent rodeo at Burwell was conceived by local real estate man Homer C. Stokes. In 1921 while on a business trip, Stokes attended a rodeo at Norton, Kansas, and decided that Burwell would be a good location for such an event in conjunction with the Garfield County Fair. A corporation was formed, land was purchased, and the erection of permanent structures began. The first rodeo held in Burwell was in September 1922 and attracted nationwide interest. By the 1930s the rodeo had become one of the major shows on the rodeo circuit. Nebraska’s Big Rodeo at Burwell is the oldest continuous rodeo in Nebraska and retains most of the 1922 structures.
Garfield County Historical Museum
The Garfield County Historical Society was originally organized in March of 1965 with the intent of establishing a museum for the county. In 1969 a generous donor bought the building that housed Dr. Cram’s Hospital and donated it to the historical society. When donated to the historical society the building underwent a desperate repair and cleaning. On July 9, 1972 the Garfield County Historical Museum was dedicated and opened to the public. Today, a visit to the museum is a walk through Garfield County’s history. Rooms included in the museum include a library, surgery room, Cowboy/Indian room, tool room, military room, parlor, bedroom, country school room, etc. Hours: Sunday 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Contact information: Marilee Malicky 308.346.4445
Unveiled in the Summer of 2005, the bronze statue “Cowboy Hang-Time” stands prominant on a seven ton piece of granite at the east entrance to Burwell’s downtown business district. This six foot high original bronze statue of a bucking horse and rider was sculpted by renowned western artist Herb Mignery. This sculpture recognizes and celebrates the community’s western heritage and Nebraska’s Big Rodeo.
Nature Sports & Sights
Fishing, Hunting, Bird watching, Horseback Trail Rides or tours of the Calamus State Fish Hatchery
Calamus Fish Hatchery
Located just below the Virginia Smith Dam at Calamus Reservoir, the Calamus State Fish Hatchery is a state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar facility. For more than a century, demand for fish has exceeded the natural supply. The state’s original fish hatchery opened in South Bend in 1879. Today, Nebraska has five hatcheries. The Calamus facilitiey has nearly twice the water supply of the other four. It has 51 ponds, 24 raceways and a modern hatch house, and can raise both cold water and warm water species.
The vistitors area is open to the public daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except holidays. You’ll need to schedule group tours 48 hours in advance. Admission is free, and the facility is handicapped accessible. 308.346-4226.
Fishing & Boating
Any fishing and/or boating enthusiast will enjoy the opportunities available at the Calamus Reservoir SRA. Fisherman are encouraged to try their real at the walleye, white bass, wipers (a hybrid of white and striped bass), channel catfish, carp, drum, crappie or any of the other fish in the Calamus Reservoir SRA. The Calamus Reservoir offers 5,123-acres of wetland for boaters and fishermen alike. Five boat ramps are open from spring to fall. Speeds in excess of five miles per hour are prohibited in the fishing areas of the lake. Two fish-cleaning stations are available. Nearby Gracie Creek Pond is stocked with rainbow trout, and has a handicapped-accessible fish dock. Fisherman and boaters are also encouraged to explore the opportunities at other area ponds including Ladybird Lake and the city park pond.
The Burwell area offers many opportunities for the hunting enthusiast. Ninety percent of the land around the Calamus Reservoir SRA is public property and open for hunting during the hunting season. The Burwell area also has a number of private outfitters which provide guided hunting tours. Wildlife hunted in the Burwell area includes coyotes, deer, dove, duck, geese, grouse, pheasants, quail, rabbit and turkey. For additional information on Nebraska’s hunting season, Nebraska’s hunting guides or hunting permits contact the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission at 402.471.0641.
Visit our bird watching paradise by enjoying over 400 different species in the Nebraska heartland. Bird watching while plentiful year round reaches its peak each spring with the ritual dance of the native prairie chickens.
Nebraska Birding Trails
Try your hand at horseback riding with our many outfitters. Take an evening ride through the sandhills while enjoying the sunset or rise early to view the sunrise while on horseback.
Heart in Your Hand
Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch
Indoor Family Fun
Test out your skills at the bowling alley or catch the latest movie at the theater.
Longhorn Lanes located directly off of Highway 91 and 11 is a eight (8) lane bowling alley that offers women’s, men’s and couples bowling leagues. Open bowling is available all day Saturday, with evening leagues Monday through Friday. For additional information call 308.346.4483.
Located in Burwell’s downtown business district is the Rodeo Theatre. At the Rodeo Theatre movie watching is enjoyed year-around on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. For additional information on the Rodeo Theatre call 308.346.4556.
Garfield County Historical Museum
The Garfield County Historical Society was originally organized in March of 1965 with the intent of establishing a museum for the county. In 1969 a generous donor bought the building that housed Dr. Cram’s Hospital and donated it to the historical society. When donated to the historical society the building underwent a desperate repair and cleaning. On July 9, 1972 the Garfield County Historical Museum was dedicated and opened to the public.
Hours: Sunday 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Contact information: Marilee Malicky 308.346.4445
Experience the great outdoors
The Burwell area is blessed with every activity imaginable to the nature lover’s eye! To see for yourself visit Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area located just six miles north of town for camping, fishing and boating. Hiking, bird watching and sightseeing make for unbelievable photo opportunities! For the hunter, adventure awaits you! No matter what your interests your outdoor passions will be met in Burwell. Check out our Events Calendar for the year.