The Loup Rivers Scenic Byway acquired its name from the North, Middle and South Loup Rivers swirling through the heart of Nebraska’s Sandhills. The view along the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway is breathtaking as the rivers pass through the gently rolling farmland and Sandhills. Habitat along the river makes the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway a home for countless wildlife. The Loup Rivers Scenic Byway stretches 150 miles along Highway 11 from Wood River (along I-80 west of Grand Island) to Burwell, then along Highway 91 from Burwell to Dunning. At the point, you’ll have arrived at the junction of highway 2 (another scenic route) and will be close to the Bessey Division of the Nebraska National Forest.
If you travel north or west of Burwell, the rugged grasslands take on a different look-sort of like a storm-tossed sea covered with grass. That means you’ve entered the Sandhills, a 19,000 square mile region that is unique in the Western hemisphere. The hills here are actually sand dunes held in place by a thin covering of grass.
Considered an inhospitable desert by early settlers, the Sandhills proved instead to be prime rangeland. Today, it’s no accident that cows out-number people here. The Sandhills sit atop the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest sources of groundwater in the world. Much of the area is dotted with small, spring fed lakes and marshes-providing, outstanding wildlife habitat. Beautiful wildflowers can be seen along the route from springtime to autumn.