A special National Monument, commemorating the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862, and the westward expansion of the United States of America, this 160 acre monument represents freedom and liberty for every American. Located in southern Nebraska, about four miles west of the small town of Beatrice, the monument is of great importance because it allowed qualified persons to claim up to 160 acres of federally owned land in exchange for five years of residence and the cultivation and improvement of the property.
The Homestead National Monument Commemorates this Act and the effects it had on Americans and land ownership. The monument has a lot of activities available to visitors. The visitors’ center has visual displays and exhibits depicting some of the early work of homesteaders and the growth of the movement which granted over a million U.S. citizens land ownership.
The graves of some pioneers of the movement are located on a hill near the main building, as well as a small log cabin firmly built on a neighboring homestead in 1867 and was later moved to the site, a restored schoolhouse is also at the resort, as well as hiking trails, and America's second oldest restored tallgrass prairie. Wildlife also roam the monument and it's surroundings, giving visitors the chance to see some of the animals that have inhabited the area for centuries. With such a rich history and a significant role in American development, Homestead National Monument is a must visit for history lovers.
The park can be easily located just four miles west of Beatrice on State Highway 4. The roads in the region are very vehicle friendly and aid easy transport. Once you reach the monument, different sign posts guide you to the various buildings and areas of the resort.
This campground is located on the south side of the Big Blue River in Beatrice and is very close to Homestead Monument. The campground has 20 sites each with electric, water and sewer hookups. Each site also has a grill and a fire pit. Restrooms and shower facilities are also provided at the ground. Chautauqua Park has three playgrounds for kids with plenty of space for games and recreation. A duck pond is nearby with a small soccer field and a lighted table tennis court also available. There are hiking trails near the campground, with a golf course and corral also nearby. Sites are given out on a first come first served basis with no reservations available.
Visitors can experience living history activities and demonstrations led by Park Rangers and volunteers. Hands on activities include cornhusk doll making, candle dipping, butter churning and more! This is a great chance to experience hands-on ways homesteaders lived their everyday lives.
Kids have a chance to participate in the Homestead Junior Ranger Program. The program teaches kids the basic importance of the Homestead Act and why preserving the monument is important. Kids participate in a series of activities and earn a ranger badge. There is also a WebRanger program and educational books for kids at the visitor's center.
The Monument's surroundings have a rich landscape in which to observe wildlife. The Monument is home to over 100 species of birds which live in the tallgrass prairie and woodland. Wildlife such as deer, foxes, rabbits, raccoons, squirrel, and coyote can also be seen. Weasels, badgers bobcats, shrews, about two dozen rodent species, and many other kinds of mammals have been seen around the boundaries of the Monument.
A very detailed picture of the Homestead Act and its importance in American history is presented at the Homestead Heritage Center. The building is the Monument's HQ and brings the epic homestead story to life for visitors of all ages, demonstrating the true scope and value of the Homestead Act. A 22 minute video "Land of Dreams" is shown in the auditorium and the vista from the main balcony provides visitors with a view of the tallgrass prairie much like early pioneers would have seen from the hilltop. The Education Center also plays Land of Dreams and has many 19th century educative artifacts.
Held every Labor Day Weekend, car enthusiasts from all over Nebraska and neighboring towns can enjoy cars from the 1900s through the 1980s. Various cars from different time periods in the last 100+ years will be on display and visitors are allowed to register any vintage car of theirs in the contest, where a winner will be chosen.
The Freeman School stands as a reminder of pioneer life on the prairie. The school provided education for pioneer kids from 1872 until 1967 and was the longest-used classroom in the whole of Nebraska.
The school also served as a meeting place for the local church, a polling center, and a multi-purpose gathering place for various groups. The school still hosts an annual spelling bee for different age categories.