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Western Nebraska’s only lighthouse

Down the Road: The lighthouse at Lake Minatare stands out as a major landmark in the state.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

August 16, 2023

2 Min Read
 lighthouse overlooking Lake Minatare State Recreation Area near Scottsbluff, Neb.,
STANDING OUT: The New Deal-era simulated lighthouse overlooking Lake Minatare State Recreation Area near Scottsbluff, Neb., was built by the Veterans Conservation Corps between 1937 and 1939 — rising 55 feet — and complete with an observation tower that overlooks the lake. Photos by Curt Arens

There are a lot of rivers and lakes in Nebraska, but there has never been much need for lighthouses to help ships navigate those waters.

That didn’t stop the Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC) Camp BR-1 from building an unusual 55-foot-tall, four-story simulated lighthouse that stands at Lake Minatare State Recreation Area northeast of Scottsbluff.

The lighthouse, which doubles as a shelter house and observation tower overlooking the 2,158-acre Lake Minatare, was built between 1937 and 1939, entirely of native stone. It is one of only seven such landlocked lighthouses that exist in the U.S.

The historic tower is open to the public, so visitors can scramble up the winding, narrow staircase to the top observation area, where they are greeted with a spanning view of the lake and surrounding campgrounds.

Along with the lighthouse, Scout’s Cabin, located at Scout’s Rest Area on the north side of the lake, was built at the same time by VCC. This cabin, which can accommodate up to 50 people, is available for rent for the half day or full day, offering a functioning fireplace, electrical outlets and lighting.

The lake itself was developed between 1912 and 1915, when the construction of the Minatare Dam was completed. It is among the largest reservoirs in the Panhandle, attracting anglers, campers and water enthusiasts to the region.

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About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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