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Situated right on the North Loup River, Burwell is a small city in both land area and population, but big in natural and cultural attractions. Here in the middle of the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska, Burwell is an oasis of rustic charm a world away from the big city lights of Omaha, three and a half hours' drive away.
Burwell is a gateway to the white sand beaches and blue waters of Calamus Lake, and home to Nebraska's Big Rodeo, a well-attended annual event that has long been a staple of this largely agricultural and ranching community. For adventure seekers, RV rentals in Burwell will take them along the state's scenic Highway 11 that passes through the river valleys of the Loup Basin. As the town remains largely under the tourist radar, if you venture out there, you most likely will have the wide open spaces to yourself.
Rent an RV in Burwell, and you’ll just be less than 10 miles from Calamus Lake, which beckons anglers of all stripes to its more than 5,000-acre surface area. Top species are walleyes, white bass, and wipers. The lake is also a birdwatching haven where bald eagles, pelicans, and meadowlarks are regularly spotted. For those who love to be on or in the water, the lake is an ideal place for swimming, boating, and kayaking. You may be surprised to see sails in the middle of Nebraska, but windsurfing is quite popular out here.
The Sandhills region of Nebraska takes up more than one-fourth of the state's total land area. Experience a slice of the largest sand dune formation in the Western Hemisphere and take your motorhome rental from Burwell for a 150-mile drive on the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway. Here, the Ogallala Aquifer rises to the surface and manifests in many temporary and permanent lakes that nourish wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of bald eagles, pronghorn antelope, and even bison, among the many animals that call the green rolling prairie hills home.
For a more ambitious road trip, follow Nebraska Highway 2 for a 272-mile drive from Grand Island to Alliance, with the vast Sandhills dunes sculpted by the wind, bright blue lakes, and native grass in between. Meet the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway at Broken Bow about an hour away by camper rental from Burwell. Then follow NE-2 all the way to Alliance, stopping now and then in the quaint prairie and sparsely populated towns – Halsey, Thedford, Hyannis – to stretch your legs, grab a bite, or simply look around.
The Calamus State Recreation Area is one of the closest campsites for an RV rental near Burwell, Nebraska. There are more than 100 sites here with 30/50 amp electrical hookups and access to modern restrooms, showers, and a dump station. Water connection is available through hydrants. Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound in the area. Close to 5,000 acres of gently rolling land blanketed in native grass enclose the 5,124-acre lake.
Another campground close to town is Creekside at Calamus West in Taylor, about 20 minutes' drive away. Although it bills itself as a bar and grill, if you're bringing a campervan from Burwell, you can stay in their campground with water and electric sites, fire rings, and picnic tables. If you'd rather not leave town, consider staying at Burwell’s truck stop, a more convenient option if you need a parking space in a pinch.
Housed in a once dilapidated hospital, the Garfield County Historical Museum offers a fitting introduction to your visit in Burwell, the county seat. The museum offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like in the past. Aside from taking a peek at the surgery room, you'll also step inside a military room, a tool room, and a country school room. Burwell is a ranching town, so don't miss browsing the displays inside the cowboy/Indian room.
Burwell and the area surrounding it used to be the site of several skirmishes between Native Americans and European settlers, and Fort Hartsuff served as a buffer zone during those times of conflict. The area that the fort now occupies is carefully maintained so you will still find many original items here that date back to Burwell's pioneer era in the late 19th century. Time your visit to take advantage of "Living History Weekends" or stargazing events.
For a city of its size, Burwell has dozens of locally owned businesses that include a few gas stations and several places to eat, most of which offer bar and grill fare, fast food, and breakfast staples. For fresh fruits and vegetables and the best cuts of meat, there's a full-service grocery store in town to expand your meal options.
Rent a motorhome in Burwell at the end of July to take part in the rowdy "Big Rodeo," a mainstay of the town's social and economic scene for close to a century. The Big Rodeo is such a cultural attraction that it draws a sizable crowd from all over the state. Some of the classic events include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, and steer wrestling. If you prefer to watch non-traditional events, wild horse and chuckwagon races are sure to entertain.
Burwell is sure a cowboy town, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Like the massive store of water underneath Nebraska’s vast sand dunes, there’s plenty to discover if you scratch Burwell’s surface a bit deeper. Book an RV rental in Burwell and find out the treasures it keeps.