On the Outlaw Trail
Niobrara Scenic River
Travel Guide Information:
Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway and Corridor Region
Check out the Scenic Byway communities below:
Situated on the Nebraska/Iowa border, Dakota County is a popular destination.
South Sioux City: Known as the “wildest little town on the Missouri” in Frontier days, the town is rich in history and recreation. Some highlights of the South Sioux City area:
- Scenic Park – located at 4th and D Streets along the Missouri Riverfront and includes playground areas, picnic tables and shelters, city aqua play park, tent/RV camping with utility hookups and bath-house, hiking/biking trail, boat ramp and parking.
- Crystal Cove – at the intersection of Hwys 20 and 77 has boat ramp for fishing boats (no motors), swimming beach, picnic areas, one-mile paved walking/jogging/bike trail, well-stocked fishing lake, abundant observations for plant and wildlife species.
- Meisch House – located at 213 17th Street. Constructed in 1888, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and offers a well-reserved elaborate example of the one-story “square” or “cubic.”
- O’Connor House – located 2-miles east of Homer, an historical 14-room mansion built in 1865.
Willis: Where NE Hwy 12 begins.
Enjoy the scenery along Nebraska’s Scenic Byway, the Outlaw Trail on Hwy 12 through Dixon County.
Ponca: rolling hills and spectacular river bluffs create the setting for a perfect “outlaw getaway.” Some highlights are:
1.Ponca State Park – The Tri-State Look-Out offers an incredible scenic view of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. The Park also offers cabins, RV and tent camping facilities, naturalist and outdoor education, hiking/biking trails, 9-hole golf course, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, and boating access to the Missouri National Recreational River. The new Interpretive Education Center, located at the Park. Cook’s Blacksmith Shop – original 1800’s tools and equipment; open only by appointment.
2.Ponca Historic District and Walking Tour – 45-minute walk viewing historical buildings, many of which date back to settlement of the town. Be sure to visit the Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain in the Drug Store on Main Street.
3.Adams House Museum – 1900’s interior design
4.Carnage Public Library – the last of its’ kind built in Nebraska
Martinsburg: take NE Hwy 9 south of Ponca about 7-miles to arrive at Bob’s Bar, known throughout the county for the largest and best hamburgers. People come from all over, so bring your appetite.
Wakefield:- Continue on NE Hwy 9 south about 18-miles to the “Baseball Capital of Nebraska.” View the Salem Church built in 1906 and is one of Nebraska’s outstanding examples of Swedish-American Gothic Revival wood church architectures. Return to NE Hwy 9 and go north back to Allen.
Allen: Stop at this 1890’s Pacific Railroad Town site. Be sure to see: Dixon County Museum – located at 3rd and Clark Street contains household and farm implement antiques and a one-room schoolhouse. Lov-A-Lop Exotic Animals Petting Zoo – just north of Allen, features large and small birds, fancy goats, reptiles, and even a camel. Allen Historical Tree Grove – south of town, on your left this grove features a variety of trees transplanted as seedlings from famous sites.
Dixon: for an alternative place to eat, visit Eunie’s Palace Restaurant. Take NE Hwy 9 north to Hwy 20 turn west then 8-miles to NE 116 turn south 3-miles. Depart Dixon take NE 15 (oiled road) north to Hwy 20 then west 5-miles, south 2-miles.
Newcastle: known for its outdoor recreation and historical sites:
1.Pfister Park – located along Hwy 12 hosts an Annual Labor Day celebration.
- Ionia Volcano – located on private property, near Newcastle, is Nebraska’s only “volcano.” A documented site by the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition, they noted that one bluff was on “fire” as they passed by. This “volcanic activity” was decomposition of iron pyrite beds as they met the water.
- Wiseman Monument – (see the book at Saint James Marketplace) a memorial to the Wiseman children killed in an Indian raid in the summer of 1863.
- Buckskin Hills State Wildlife Management Area – 5-miles west of town, you can hunt for most upland game and fish for crappie, bluegill, bass, and walleye.
- Mulberry Bend State Wildlife Management Area – offers boat access to the Missouri River. From this location, you can see the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge. Be sure to park and walk up to the look out. A must see before heading to St. James and Wynot.
Laurel: located in Cedar County. Some sites to see are the Couser Barn, a twelve-sided frame barn built in 1912-13 that is the only “round” barn recorded in Cedar County; the B-52 Crash Site Monument, the Maun House and the Clairmont School House. Depart Laurel on NE Hwy 15 north 16-miles and connect to NE Hwy 12. Turn east (right) on NE Hwy 12 and travel 12-miles, through Obert and Maskell, to Newcastle.
St. James: located 1-mile east of Wynot, St. James Market Place offers Nebraska-grown products and hand-made crafts (be sure to see the book on the Wiseman Monument).
Wynot: return to NE Hwy 12,from St. James and turn west (right) to this community offering pioneer history, hunting, fishing, camping, and water sports on the Missouri River. Be sure to see:
- Historic George Shannon Trail – “Take the road less traveled” to find out “Who was George Shannon?” Collect twelve stamps from visiting the twelve statues in communities along the Shannon Trail (see enclosed brochure) and receive a Limited Edition Print of Pvt. Shannon (not sold in any stores).
- Goat Island, northeast of Wynot in the Missouri River, so named for the wild goats that once inhabited the island.
- Bow Valley Mills – built in 1868 just north of Wynot
- Take Spur 14H north to visit St. Helena Cemetery and Church — the fourth oldest Catholic Church in the state and the Iron Jail House.
- Return on Spur 14H south, cross NE Hwy 12, to Bow Valley see the Bow Valley Catholic Church – where the entire town is centered around the church.
- Take NE 15 south to Hartington and see the Cedar County Historical Museum
- Continue south on NE 57 to Coleridge the “Heart of Cedar County.”
- Continue south on NE 57, intersecting Hwy 20 to Randolph the “Honey Capital of the Nation.”
- Continue west on Hwy 20 to US 81 north through Pleasant Valley and cross NE Hwy 12, heading north, to the turn off for Menominee to see the Franz Zavadil Farmstead — an outstanding example of an early Nebraska farmstead. The most notable building is a one and one-half story chalk rock and glacial rock dwelling signifying folk architecture.
- From Menominee, return to US Hwy 81 north to intersect NE 121 west.[/show_more]
- Corps of Discovery Welcome Center – view the scenic overlook, historical marker, Lewis & Clark interpretive panels, art gallery, and gift shop.
- Lewis & Clark Visitors Center – visit Gavins Point Dam, Powerhouse, Lewis & Clark Lake and Recreation Area, Calumet Bluff, and Bald Eagle Lookout.
- Lakeview Golf Course – one of the Nation’s Top Ten Most Scenic Golf Courses.
- Weigand Marina – boating, fishing, camping, hunting opportunities abound.
- Crofton: 12-miles south on NE 121 is Nebraska’s Best Access to the “North Coast.”
Be sure to stop and visit with host Sandra McDonald of the Historic Argo Hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places offers 13-rooms in turn-of-the-century décor, a splendid dining room and “speakeasy lounge.”
- Continue west on NE Hwy 12 to the turn off for Bloomfield:
- Bloomfield Museum — allows you to step back into a simpler time and place. Call for an appointment.
- Sally’s Antiques and Sweets located in a restored 1920 building and Tea Room filled with two levels of antiques.
- From Bloomfield return to NE Hwy 121 and go south to Wausa: located a short 13 miles, you can experience Swedish heritage and hospitality in this quaint Swedish village. Family activities include a large City Park with BMX dirt track, swimming pool, Arboretum, play ground complex and electric campsites. Rolling Hills Country Club is open to the public. A Classic Car Show is Labor Day weekend.
From Wausa take NE Hwy 59 to Creighton: located 20-miles west of Wausa, it is Knox County’s largest city. Family activities include:
- “Berry Pepper Days” — in June.
- Bruce Park Arboretum — is a green oasis to relax, retreat, and recreate with over 175 different species of labeled woody plants.
- Creighton Country Club — golf course is open to the public.
From Creighton continue west on NE Hwy 59 to Spur 54B and Winnetoon: “World’s Only Winnetoon” with a population less than 100, boasts a mini-mall and boardwalk, which includes a gift and antique shop, health food store, Village Woodworks, chainsaw carver, privy path and Frontier town, park with an historic jailhouse, and Elaine’s Café & Tavern on Main Street.
- From Winnetoon, take the oiled road north and west connecting to beautiful NE Hwy 14, turn north to Verdigre: nestled in a valley of picturesque hills, named by the Czech settlers as the “Bohemian Alps” because of their similarity to hills in Czechoslovakia. This is a must stop on any trip:
- ZCBJ Opera House – constructed in 1903 by the Lodge Bila Hora 5, it is used today as a community hall and is noted for its graceful façade, 20-foot deep proscenium stage, and the rare “square grand” piano built in the early 1860’s.
- Commercial Hotel B & B – a restored 1900 hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Verdigre Museum — complex includes an 1870 Grist Mill, unused city jail, mortuary, and artifacts from the early life of the Czech community.
- St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church – built in 1915, is completely restored in its Romanesque style with the original stencils used to repaint the murals and statues, the stained glass windows, originally from Czechoslovakia, were also restored.
From Verdigre head north on NE Hwy 14 to Niobrara: this community has relocated twice since 1856. The first time was in 1888 due to flooding and the second time in 1973 due to high water levels.
- Located in town, the Sage Brothers Memorial and Historical Marker – in memory of three brothers who died when their ship sank during the Vietnam conflict.
- Turning east onto NE Hwy 12 you will find:
- Chief Standing Bear Bridge — links NE and SD just to the east. Interpretive markers on the SD side tell about the Native American history, Lewis & Clark expedition, and the Missouri River ferry service.
- Bazile Creek Wildlife Management Area — “Nebraska’s Everglades” located along the Missouri River east and west of Niobrara.
- Maiden’s Leap — marks the legend of an Indian Maiden who, in love with one brave, but betrothed to another, by her father, rode one of her father’s finest horses off this rock cliff.
- Santee Indian Reservation Ohiya Casino
- Santee: take Spur 54D and arrive on the Santee Sioux Reservation, established in 1866. Approximately 750 Santee Sioux live here and hold their annual Pow Wow at the grounds within the village. Look for:
- Santee Cultural Center – soon to be completed.
- Mankato 38 Mural – painted on the wall at the Santee School, it depicts the Santee Sioux living in the woodland regions of the Great Lakes, their uprising against the government, the army moving in to stop the conflict, and moving the tribe to South Dakota and eventually Nebraska.
- Santee Pilgrim Congregational Church and Santee Normal Training School – the church and school, constructed in 1870-71 by Congregational missionaries, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Church of Our Most Merciful Savior – this church, constructed in 1884, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Depart Santee on East Street driving southeast to Tewsville and then Lindy
- Lindy: the village motto is “Rising from the Ashes.” Lindy came into existence in 1928, named for aviator Charles Lindbergh.
- Lindy Country Club – the ONLY Country Club in Northeast NE without a golf course, it is a café/bar built in 1998 by all volunteer labor. A great place to eat and shake the dust from your boots.
- George Shannon Historical Marker – located right outside the Country Club.
- “Devil’s Nest” – the hideout area for Jesse James and his gang. Deep canyons and ample tree cover made for good protection from the law.
- Turning west onto NE Hwy 12 you will find:
- Niobrara State Park – this Park, situated at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers, offers Missouri River Raft Rides, horseback riding, swimming, hiking/biking trails, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, scenic vistas, wildlife viewing, modern cabins, tent and trailer camping, picnic shelters, a group lodge, the Cramer Interpretive Center, and a historic covered walking bridge over the mouth of the Niobrara River. Look for the Mosasaurus palentological find, the first complete fossil of its kind found in Nebraska.
- Mormon Monument — to the south, a large stone monument in honor of a group of Mormons who wintered in the area during 1846.
- Old Ponca Agency — 3-miles south built in 1936 and is the site of the Ponca Tribe Annual Pow Wow every August.
- Swanson Hunting Acres – Nebraska’s oldest and largest controlled shooting area, since 1983, has good pheasant, quail, and chukar hunting.
- Niobrara River Valley – a majestic view from the top of the hill southwest of Niobrara near the Riverview Cemetery. According to the Lewis & Clark journals, they stopped at the mouth of the Niobrara River near Niobrara State Park where the Niobrara River flows into the Missouri River.
- Kreycik Riverview Elk & Buffalo Farm – to the southwest offers covered wagon rides along the scenic Niobrara River.
- From Niobrara continue west on NE Hwy 12 to Verdel:
- Verdel Cemetery – the grandparents of television game show host Bob Barker, of “The Price Is Right,” are buried here (Joseph and Francis “Fanny” Barker)
- Northwest of Verdel – a scenic view of Ponca Creek and the valley.
- Verdel Jail — once held outlaws.
- Pishelville: located south of Verdel and named for one of the earliest community leaders, Anton Pischel. Sites to see:
- Pishelville Lodge – built in 1884 and still used today, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is thought to be the first Czech Lodge built in the state.
- Pishelville Cemetery – a Bohemian National Cemetery, it is the burial place for many area residents.
- Monowi: which means “flower.” Monowi is the smallest incorporated town in Nebraska. The 2000 Census documented the population at two. Stop at the Monowi Tavern for a visit.
- Lynch: nestled between the Ponca and Whiskey Creeks, the Niobrara River lies 6-miles south and the Missouri River is 10-miles north.
- “Old Baldy” or the “Tower” – located 6-miles north along the Missouri River it is documented in the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery journals. They also discovered the first Prairie Dog near this location.
- The Lynn Theatre — is a restored theatre that is run solely by volunteers and features first run movies.
- The House of Renewal Retreat Center — located in the former Catholic hospital and convent. The center hosts retreats and conferences and is available to rent for reunions and functions.
- U.S. Military Reservation Post – the “Iron Post” is in front of the Lynch Firehouse and is one of only three Iron Posts known to be in existence.
- Gross: this community grew to 500, in the summer of 1903, due to the Fort Randall Military Reserve ten-miles north. View some of the original buildings, built by the founder of the town. Bring your appetite, as Friday and Saturday nights there is standing room only in the Nebrask-Inn Bar & Grill.
- Bristow: offers a scenic park for camping and a meal at the Bristow Café.
- US Hwy 281 south to the Spencer Dam and the Angel’s Straw Bale Saloon.
- Spencer: come celebrate “Wild Turkey Days” in the fall.
- Community Hall — constructed during the Works Progress Administration Era of 1935 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”
- Carnegie Library – a grassroots community project built in 1916 for $8,000.
- Corn Exchange – a historic building in downtown, built in 1906 by Storz Brewing Company of Omaha as a saloon and later became the Corn Exchange Bank. The bank vault is now a walk-in cooler.
- Village Variety – this store has everything in it you could ever need.
- Butte: two scenic formations near the Village, Harvey Butte and Twin Butte, give this community its name. The Butte Community Historical Center and Butte Museum are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Naper: be sure to stop at the Naper Café for some afternoon pie and coffee.
- A Military Plane Crash Site – one of the worst Nebraska plane crashes, with twenty-eight fatalities, occurred nearby on August 3, 1944.
- White Horse Ranch — home to the famous White Horse breed and White Horse Ranch troupe of trick riders. This National Historic Site and Museum house memorabilia from the troupe and the famous White Horse breed.
- Burton: services are a picnic area and historic restrooms.
Keya Paha County
- Springview: known as the “Gateway to the Niobrara River Valley,” diverse and breath-taking landscape from rolling hills to endless grasslands and dramatic bluffs.
- Nebraska’s own “Grand Canyon” – located southeast of Springview overlooks the Niobrara River.
- Keya Paha County Historical Society Museum – Keya Paha County, known as “Mob County” because of the numerous vigilante activities in the 1880’s to early 1900’s. Many people were hung, or shot, during this lawlessness period.
- “Wind Turbine Days” – this annual event celebrates the location of giant wind turbines just west of the community.
- Cub Creek Recreation Area – a man-made lake constructed and maintained by the Natural Resource District, Keya Paha County, and Springview.
- Meadville: the “Capital of the Niobrara” is a restored ghost town with a newly-refurbished general store and campgrounds. Meadville was at the heart of Keya Paha County’s lawlessness. “Doc” Middleton (most notorious horse thief) frequently used a hidden corral located about six-miles west on the south side of the Niobrara River.
- Norden: The Norden Dance Hall — an historic dance hall with wooden floor. Dances are held Saturday nights during the summer. Everyone is welcome to attend.
- Sparks: “Canoe Capital of Nebraska” this Village offers canoe outfitters, a general store, and post office.
- Smith Falls State Park turnoff: located a few miles past Sparks, the turnoff leads you to the Niobrara River and the state’s tallest waterfall, with water tumbling nearly 70’ to the lower canyon floor on its way to the river. Spend time on the Jim MacAllister Nature Trail located on the south side of the river. This trail offers a chance to view the diverse ecological systems of oak, ponderosa pine, and paper birch trees, as well as combinations of plant life which exist nowhere else in the North American continent.
- Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge turnoff: four miles east of Valentine, the refuge is home to buffalo, elk, deer, and a large prairie dog colony. There is an automobile driving tour and hiking trails, which will lead you to Fort Falls and the Fort Niobrara Wilderness area. Over 200-species of birds are in this habitat.
- Valentine: “Heart of the Sandhills” and the “Cupid Capital” describe this community.
Six (6) eco-systems meet in this region. They are the Northern Boreal Forest, Rocky Mountain Forest, Eastern Deciduous Forest, Tall Grass Prairie, Mixed Grass Prairie and the Sandhills.
- Niobrara National Scenic River – so designated in 1991 by Congress, a 76-mile stretch from Borman Bridge in Valentine, east, to the Highway 137 Bridge north of Newport is protected. This scenic river corridor encompasses over 20,000-acres of public and private lands.
- Cherry County Historical Society Museum –Many original photos and items that belong to settlers within the area and the surrounding area.
- 1897 National Historic Landmark Centennial Hall – this is the oldest standing high school building in the state and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The design incorporates Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival design elements and offers an ornate architectural style of native-stone foundation and wrought-iron fire escapes.
- The Cowboy Trail – Nebraska’s first state recreational trail. It is the nation’s longest rails to trails conversion, stretching 321-miles from Norfolk to Chadron. The trail is the former historic Chicago & Northwestern Railroad right-of-way.