Every state has its best town. For me, in Illinois it’s Galena. In my own state, Washington, it’s Port Townsend. I found my best in Nebraska last summer, Broken Bow. This town is not heralded. The AAA barely mentions it in its travel lit. In my opinion, it’s small town perfection.
In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed the act that gave 160 acres of land to anyone who agreed to build a house on the property and live there for at least 5 years. Many of the population centers created mostly near railroad lines by this Homestead Act no longer exist. Broken Bow not only exists, it thrives. It does this by remaining a quiet community with all needed human services that’s a good place to raise children who can ride bikes without fear, listen to train whistles, and go to Schmick’s Market for candy.
Over time, Broken Bow reinvents itself to stay viable. New living facilities are going up on its town square close to a war memorial, its historic bandstand, and the wonderful Arrow Hotel. A local man donated part of his land gift from the Homestead Act to create the town square and park where the bandstand still is. In 1904 the Kinkaid Act increased the grant to 640 acres.
Now a town in the middle of its state, Broken Bow has a population of about 3,500. The broken bow for which it is named is in the Custer County Museum. Also worth checking out are the Tiffany Theater, the Carnegie library, the Red Barn Visitor Center, etc. The Red Barn is only opened from Memorial through Labor Days because that’s when tourists exploring the Sand Hills are passing through. However, Broken Bow’s busiest time of year is fall when hunters from all over the country arrive to gather upland game and waterfowl.
Broken Bow is on scenic two-lane state highway 2, a Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. It can remain two lane in the future because there is little traffic. West of town the highway is consistently lovely without being zowie. If tree-dotted hills alive with wildflowers and farms and ranches benefiting from the Ogallala Aquifer, which causes plenty of ponds and lakes, sound like something you want to see, head for the Sand Hills next summer.