Windmill State Recreation Area
Windmill State Recreation Area is one of two highly developed areas operated by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in the state's unique "chain of lakes" along Interstate 80.
Situated at the Gibbon Interchange, between Kearney and Grand Island, it was once a stopping spot for early-day travelers. It still serves travelers today with modem camping facilities, a 14-acre man-made lake.
It draws its name from the locale, Windmill Crossing, where the Pawnee Indians forded the Platte River during their annual buffalo hunts. The old-time windmills that add so much to the character of the area were acquired in the early 1970's. They have all been restored to working order.
About the Windmills
The largest is a railroad windmill that stands over 60 feet tall. The wheel is 20 feet in diameter, with 200 blades in 2 rows of 8 sections each. The vane or small fan section that extends beyond the edge of the wheel is actually a type of governor. When the wind is too strong, it turns the head out of the wind and shuts it down so it won't spin at excessive speeds that can damage the mechanism. The main tower extends 40 feet to the platform, while the "stub" tower rises another 11 feet.
Also the oldest windmill at the park, it was first erected in a small town in northeastern Colorado, probably Fleming, about 188O. It was taken down in 1955 and moved to Kansas. it was found at "Sodtown," just east of Colby, and moved to Garden City. It was acquired in August 1972 from Homer Sargent of York, Nebraska, and moved to Windmill SRA. After being rebuilt, it was erected here on November 1, 1973.
The smaller Waupans windmill was first erected in 1902. It came from Louis Drake of Arcadia, Nebraska, and was put up here in the fall of 1972 after restoration. The 10-foot, folding wheel always faces downwind, while the weighted tail points into the wind.
Built about 1910, the Dempster Model 9 windmill came fxm a farm east of Wilsonville in southwest Nebraska. Its 10-foot, flat wheel faces into the wind. Donated by Paul and Carl ten Bensel of Wilsonville, it was rebuilt before being erected here in July 1973.
Windmill is a 154 acre area with 14 acres in 5 ponds. Located conveniently off of I-80 at the Gibbon Interchange, Exit 285. It has an improved campground with electrical hook-ups and a modern shower/latrine building. Primitive tent camping, swimming beach, picnicking is also available.
All campers must register. Reservations are accepted. Reservations are taken for 50% of the modern camping. Reservations are taken up to 1 year in advance of arrival day.