What a surprise to find fens in Nebraska! They are more much more common in New England and Minnesota. Although the plants found there were documented long ago, these wetlands were not identified as fen communities in Nebraska until 1982, when visiting botanists from South Dakota recognized them. Twelve rare plant species make their home in Sandhills fens, including buckbean and cottongrass, found nowhere else in the state.
The 3,250-acre Horse Creek Fen lies nestled in the deep dune valleys of the Sandhills of Cherry County. A distinctive part of the landscape, fens contain peat soils and high water tables supporting a rich diversity of plant life that adds to the special character of the Sandhills. They also support rare and threatened species.
Horse Creek Fen is home to the the Beginning Rancher Program, a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Sandhills Task Force. It is designed to foster prosperous ranching operations while supporting native plant and animal communities. A family now lives on Horse Creek Fen after purchasing from the Conservancy and runs a ranching operation with mentoring from Sandhills Task Force ranchers. The Conservancy retains a conservation easement on the property.