Although the area was of prime importance as a hunting ground for Indian parties, it was not of any great importance to the early white settlers, mainly because it lay isolated between the Santa Fe and Oregon trails. Settlement in the area tended to follow the Republican River Valley because of the availability of water, timber, and good river bottom soil. Local tradition has it that the Indians warned early settlers not to build homes in the river bottom because of the "big water."
Ignoring these warnings, farmers were lured into the valley because of rich farmlands. Floods were a common occurrence over the years, but it was not until 1935 that the settlers learned what the "big water" actually was. It was described by witnesses as a wall of water 8 feet high. Over 100 people drowned in the flood and most bridges and farm buildings were swept away. The Harlan County Dam and several other dams were later built to prevent the collection of a single mass of water like the one that caused the disaster in 1935.
Since 1952, with the completion of Harlan Lake by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Harlan County has attracted millions of outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy one of the premier recreational lakes in the state.
Explore Harlan County
In 1878 the German Pieta arrived at the spectacular St. Mary's Catholic Church in Orleans via wagon freight. It was given to the church by Frank Hufnagel, a German immigrant. The present church was built in 1898, and the pieta remained in this building until 1991 when it was moved toOrleans, NE Historic Churches
How they manage to jump that high in the air, go that fast and still stay on those cycles defies gravity! Of course, not all do, which is part of the thrills, chills and spills of Cornhusker Moto Cross Circuit races held each April and September outside of Alma.Alma, NE Car Races
The Harlan County Museum is home for the Hufnagel "PIETA." Given to St. Mary's Catholic Church by German immigrant, Frank Hufnagel, it arrived by wagon freight about 1878, and was displayed in the original frame church and then the "new" 1898 church until the late 1970Orleans, NE Museums
Rosalie Boudreau's collection has been growing for 30 years. Her first experience was at an auction 45 years ago. She bought a buffet for $2, and that sparked a lifetime of collecting that turned the former Sears assistant manager into a museum operator.Republican City, NE Museums
Republican City is proud to offer tourists and residents a professional repertory theatre company. The Theatre was established in 1991 as an additional attraction in the county. The Republican City Theater Board welcomes you to Harlan County and hope you enjoy the show!Republican City, NE Theatres
Part of Alma's Municipal Golf Course winds its way along the shoreline of Harlan County Lake. It has 9 holes, 2,993-yard par, with grass greens, a practice green, driving range and clubhouse. The course is open to the public except during tournaments.Alma, NE Golf Courses
The Republican River is beautiful in the summer for canoeing or tubing. A run can be from Oxford to Orleans, or below Harlan County Dam to Bloomington. There are places along the river to set up an overnight campsite, or just enjoy an afternoon of fun on a lazy summer day.Alma, NE Recreation