Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest encompasses a total area of about 116,000 acres of land in the north-central Sandhills region of Nebraska and more specifically in Cherry County. The forest land is situated close to Valentine, Halsey, and Nenzel. Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest was established as a national forest on October 15, 1971, but has been protected in different ways since 1902. Today, the forest is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The ecology of the forest is quite rich including several plant and animal species. Some of the planted trees in the forest include Scots Pine, Eastern Juniper, and Ponderosa Pine. The Ponderosa Pine consistently requires replanting because it is harvested. Generally, the forest land is covered by pine forest and prairie grasslands. Some of the animal species that can be found in the forest include white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, fox, and coyote. There are also over 150 bird species including grouse, pheasant, hawk, and turkey.
Besides the attractive biota in the forest, several other recreational activities can be enjoyed at the forest including camping, bicycling, rock climbing, fishing, horse riding, nature viewing, hunting, hiking, picnicking, OHV riding outdoor learning, scenic driving, water activities, and winter sports. Amenities in the forest include potable water, 23 campsites (Steer Creek Campground) and the 1-mile Blue Jay hiking trail.
Additionally, you can find other attractions in the forest including Lord Lakes wetland complex, Merritt Reservoir, Niobrara River Canoe Launch, and Steer Creek Research Natural Area. Most of these areas are open to dog owners and their tail-waggers as long as regulations are obeyed. The main rules that must be followed include ensuring that dogs are always leashed and ensuring that dogs remain well-behaved at all times. Also, it is imperative to make sure that dogs are kept out of all restricted areas and that they do not disturb other wildlife, visitors and their pets.