Picture 20,000 square miles of sand dunes covered with grass, and you've got a good idea of what the Nebraska Sandhills look like. The Sandhills, the largest sand dune formation in the Western Hemisphere, were created thousands of years ago when the dry bed of a huge inland sea was blown eastward and settled as dunes. Hundreds of types of grasses covered the dunes and protected them from the eroding winds. The world's largest underground water supply, the Ogallala Aquifer, is also a stabilizing factor for the Sandhills. For hundreds of years, this area was home to thousands of buffalo. As the buffalo numbers declined, the early settlers staked claims and moved in. Thinking that the Sandhills couldn't support man or beast, ranchers kept their livestock on the fringes of the region. But when blizzards drove the cattle into the interior of the Sandhills, and were later found fat and happy, ranchers moved in to the heart of the Sandhills to stay.
Today, the Sandhills continue to be one of the best regions in the country to raise cattle. But there is more to the Sandhills than cattle. Hunters, fishermen, and wildlife enthusiasts are drawn to the many lakes in the area, Merritt Reservoir, and the two wildlife refuges. The Niobrara River, which winds gently through the Sandhills, draws visitors from all over to canoe and tube, and to enjoy its beautiful scenery. The towns of the Sandhills are thriving communities that provide a wide variety of business, entertainment, and cultural services and activities to residents and visitors alike. The next time you're driving through the Sandhills and enjoying the beauty of the rolling dunes, remember to stop and take a closer look...there's something here for everyone!
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