Cowboy Trail

Rails to Trails Taking Shape Across Nebraska

The longest rails-to-trails conversion in the nation will soon be boosting tourism and the economy in the Norfolk area. The trail, linking Norfolk and Chadron, will span 320 miles on the bed of the former Chicago and North Western railroad route.

Ken Berney, Lower Elkhorn NRD Assistant Manager, commented that nationwide interest in recreational trails is booming right now. "Those of us who live here will be amazed at the number of people and the distance they travel to use the Cowboy Trail," Berney added.

Salvagers have removed rails and ties and most bridges have been decked, and handrails installed.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has been approved for a federal grant under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA) to cover 80% of the cost of laying a surface on the 25 miles of trail between Norfolk and Oakdale.

Several segments between Norfolk and Valentine have been surfaced with crushed rock or concrete. Locally, the trail surface is being established from Norfolk to Oakdale and will probably be opened to the public later in the year. However, the Norfolk end of the trail does not reach a point accessible to the public. Because of an active rail line, the Cowboy Trail ends 1.5 miles west of Highway 81 in the middle of a mile section, near the Goodyear Plant.

The Lower Elkhorn NRD has been asked by a local citizens group to bring the trail into Norfolk via Ta-Ha-Zouka Park for improved access to the trail. The NRD is cooperating with the City of Norfolk, Madison County, Nebraska Department of Roads, and the Nebraska Central Railroad on the project.

The cooperation of these entities, private landowners, civic groups, and interested individuals will be needed for the trail from Ta-Ha-Zouka to Oakdale to be a reality. For more information, contact Ken Berney at the Lower Elkhorn NRD office in Norfolk.