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Est. 1921 – Chadron State Park

Western Eden, Where It All Began


Pine Cone Butte rises above Chadron State Park. While the butte looks much the same as it did in 1921, the park has many more activities than it did in its first year.

Story and Photos by Justin Haag

Under the headline of “Western Eden,” the front page of the July 8, 1921, Chadron Journal proclaimed that the Nebraska Legislature had “builded better than it knew” by creating its first state park.

“For years to come all of Nebraska’s citizendom can point with honest pride to Nature’s play ground near its western boundary. It is an inspiration to view this locality, and to walk its cool shady paths with the knowledge that it belongs to all of us,” the author wrote. “A big credit mark is due to the future efforts which will be put forth to hold this spot in its pristine beauty and we can pay tribute to the Creator of Beauty that He gave to all Nebraska citizens this first state park.”

With a snowfall, Chadron State Park becomes a winter wonderland. Justin Haag, Nebraskaland

Chadron State Park has come a long way since Sen. James Good and Rep. George Snow introduced the bill to what was then a two-house legislature, but much of what attracts people to the park has not changed. As the newspaper article said, it’s “a real beauty spot.”
From the tranquil pond and babbling coldwater stream at the park’s entrance, to the majestic rock landforms and pine-clad vistas above, the 977-acre property awakens the senses.

Surely, the founders would marvel at what the park has become. Visitors can stay in one of the 16 rustic cabins or more modern duplex units. There’s also a campground suitable for everything from pup tents to mammoth RVs.

Visitors can join a guided horseback ride. Eric Fowler, Nebraskaland

Trails course through the park for hiking, biking and guided horseback rides. Visitors also make use of the park’s swimming pool, picnic shelters, playground equipment, the Trading Post activities center, a group event facility, tennis courts, disc golf course and, new this year, an indoor archery and pellet gun range.

Yes, Nebraskans can still “point with honest pride” to Chadron State Park and how it has enriched the citizenry and sparked a movement to create 77 other places for people to relax, play and explore.  

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.