Welcome to Nebraska and You

The Sandhills of Nebraska

Nebraska has an 80-mile stretch - of Interstate that is dead straight and level. You can put a penny on the ground at the Grand Island end and read the date from Lincoln. However, once you get off the Interstate there is some surprisingly interesting scenery in Nebraska.

About a quarter of Nebraska is covered by the Sand Hills, so called because the hills are entirely made of - now let's not always see the same hands - sand. Whoever said "sand" gets ten minutes of unfiltered Internet time after class. The Sand Hills are Pleistocene sand dunes derived from glacial outwash eroded from the Rockies, and now (mostly) stabilized by vegetation.

The map above shows the core of the Sand Hills. Note the general absence of drainage over much of the region and the numerous tiny lakes. Much of what passes for lakes in Nebraska consists of closed depressions between dunes.

Valentine to Thedford U.S. 50 in Nevada is touted as the "Loneliest Road in America," but U.S. 83 from Valentine to Thedford can give it some serious competition. This is an area where you get no radio stations


With dunes: that are as high as 400 feet, as long as 20 miles, and slopes as steep as 25 percent, the Sandhills are the largest sand dune formations in the Western Hemisphere plus one of the largest grass-stabilized dune regions in the world. The large sand masses, that were formed by blowing sand are now held in place and stabilized by vegetation that consists mainly of grasses.

Approximately 720 species of plants are estimated to be growing without cultivation in the Sandhills with 670 of them identified as native species while approximately 50 were introduced from elsewhere (mainly Europe and Asia).

The vegetation in the Sandhills is unique, not because it consists of many unusual species, but because it is a mixture of so many different types of vegetation. Because of the unique association of plants in this it is better simply to recognize and call the region's vegetation a Sandhills rather than calling it a western extension of the tallgrass prairie.

It's not hard to figure out how the Sand Hills got their name. Sand dunes and sandy soil make this piece of grassland unique. The Nebraska Sand Hills are located almost entirely within the state of Nebraska.