Nebraska State 4-H Camp & Bovee Fire

updated: 10/12/22

On Sunday, October 2, 2022, the Bovee wildfire swept through the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey causing major damage to the Nebraska State 4-H Camp facilities. The Eppley Lodge, as well as the cabins, are a complete loss. While the staff house is still standing, it has been deemed unsafe for occupancy. 

Appreciation Event

On behalf of the Nebraska 4-H Foundation, and Nebraska Extension 4-H Youth Development, we want to express our deep gratitude for the immediate response of the hundreds of staff and volunteers locally and beyond to the Bovee fire on October 2, 2022.

We invite the firefighters and first responders from throughout the Sandhills community and all who have been friends of the Nebraska 4-H Camp, to join us on Sunday, November 6, 2022, to recognize the contributions of so many and honor the community that has been an incredible partner to the Nebraska 4-H Camp for more than 60 years.

We will be hosting an Appreciation BBQ at Sandhills High School, 107 Gandy Ave, Dunning NE, from 12:00-3:00 p.m., with remarks scheduled for 2:00 pm. 

Please RSVP below if you plan to attend the Appreciation Event so that we can plan appropriately.

RSVP for Appreciation Event

Nebraska State 4-H Camp FAQ's 

How was the Nebraska State 4-H Camp affected by the Bovee Fire?

Despite the efforts of first responders, the Nebraska State 4-H Camp in the Halsey National Forest is a near total loss. The cabins, education building, lodge, and lookout tower were all destroyed in the fire. Only the staff house is still standing, and we don’t yet know the extent of the damage to that structure.

What is the history of the 4-H camp at the Halsey National Forest?

Nebraska's first camp site, the State 4-H Camp at Halsey, was dedicated in 1962. Friends of 4-H from every community in Nebraska contributed to the campaign for funds. The facility was winterized and could accommodate 150 campers. The architect for the camp was Emil Christensen of Columbus, and the builder was Eugene Horst of Halsey. The key guiding committee included chairperson John Orr, Walter Spilker, William D. Lutes, Ray Russell, Nebraska National Forest Supervisor Harry Gaylor, and State 4-H Leader Wes Antes. Mrs. Eugene (Eleanor) Horst was instrumental in the management of camp activities at the location starting in 1956. On May 4, 1965, a major fire burned through the Nebraska State 4-H Camp, destroying the boy's bathhouse, six cabins, and many trees. Volunteers cleaned up the area and replanted trees. The cabins were rebuilt in the same year. The History of 4-H in Nebraska shares additional information regarding 4-H camp in Nebraska. In the years since its dedication, more than 30,000 campers from nearly every community in the state have experienced 4-H camp. It was the last residential 4-H camp in the state.

Will there be camp in 2023?

Since the fire, Nebraska 4-H has received an outpouring of support for the camp and for the positive youth development opportunities Nebraska 4-H makes possible. We have heard loud and clear that Nebraskans value residential 4-H camp. Nebraska 4-H has been in contact with partner organizations, and there will be residential camps for youth in 2023. Nebraska 4-H will work with other entities to offer camps at existing facilities across the state, and we’ll share more details as they are finalized.

What will happen next at the Halsey camp site?

Nebraska Extension and Nebraska 4-H Youth Development are working with the U.S. Forest Service, the Nebraska 4-H Foundation, and other entities to identify the next steps for the site of the Nebraska 4-H Camp. The U.S. Forest Service owns the land where the camp was situated. The Nebraska 4-H Foundation owned and insured the buildings, and Nebraska 4-H administered the camps. Nebraska Extension, along with the U.S. Forest Service and the 4-H Foundation, will have complex decisions to make once we more fully understand the timeline and cost of cleanup, the details of their insurance settlement, the U.S. Forest Service’s next steps, and the costs associated with rebuilding. Nebraska 4-H and Nebraska Extension are committed to the youth, families, and communities of this great State. Providing high-quality residential camps has always been part of Nebraska 4-H and there is a desire to continue doing so in ways that maximize access to all that want to participate in such camps and that are financially sound – as expected by the people of Nebraska.

How can I help?

We have had numerous 4-H clubs and individuals requesting to support Nebraska 4-H camping and environmental education programs. The best way you can help is by contributing funds directly to the Environmental Education/Camp Fund.