Nebraska has a wide range of scenic attractions. Its recreational assets are its numerous reservoirs, lakes, and rivers, including the Republican River and the Platte River system. All parts of the state offer hunting and fishing as well as opportunities to observe wildlife.
Although Nebraska has no national parks, there are historic sites and monuments, two national forests, a national grassland, and five wildlife refuges administered by the federal government. Chimney Rock is a national historic site. This rock formation, near Bayard, is a lofty spire and was a prominent landmark for those who traveled the Oregon Trail.
Another symbol of the trail is Scotts Bluff National Monument, near Gering. The wheel ruts of wagon trains that passed through this area may still be seen. Mitchell Pass, providing access through the bluff, was the route used by wagons and stagecoaches after 1852 and by the Pony Express. Homestead National Monument of America, near Beatrice, is the site of the first land claimed under the Homestead Act of 1862. Another national park unit is Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, in Sioux County. This area, along the Niobrara River, is rich in fossils of prehistoric animals and has been studied by the Carnegie Museum and the University of Nebraska since the early 1900s. Fort McPherson, south of Maxwell, is the smallest national cemetery in the nation.
Some of the state's most impressive scenery is in the Nebraska and Samuel R. McKelvie national forests. The section of Nebraska National Forest in Thomas and Blaine counties was entirely hand-planted. Oglala National Grassland is located in Dawes and Sioux counties. Lakes in eastern Cherry County and in central Garden County are national wildlife refuges.
Nebraska has 95 state parks and recreation areas. Among the most important state historical parks are Fort Robinson, near Crawford; Fort Kearny, the outpost that protected travelers on the Oregon Trail; Buffalo Bill's Ranch, the home of William F. Cody for 30 years, in North Platte; and Arbor Lodge, the stately mansion of J. Sterling Morton, a territorial governor and originator of Arbor Day, in Nebraska City.
Among the points of interest near Omaha are Fontenelle Forest; Mormon Cemetery, the burial place of those who perished in the winter of 1846 to 1847; Fort Omaha, established in 1868; and Boys Town, a famous community established by Father Edward J. Flanagan for homeless or neglected boys.
The restored home of William Jennings Bryan, the U.S. political figure and three-time candidate for the U.S. presidency, is located in Lincoln. Red Cloud, the small town setting for many novels by the Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather, has 26 sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Other historic sites in the state include Fort Atkinson, the first military post in Nebraska; the Gothenburg Pony Express station; and the historic town of Brownville, on the Missouri River.