The early settlers considered the Sandhills an inhospitable desert, but they eventually realized an area that once supported vast herds of bison would make excellent cattle country. The history of Sandhills ranch life is on display at Arthur Bowring Ranch State Historical Park, three miles north and east of Merriman off Highway 20. A visitor center houses artifacts and memorabilia of early ranching days. The corrals, barns, bunkhouses and other buildings are preserved as a working ranch.
Buildings and grounds are open 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day, and 9 a.m.-sunset the rest of the year. A state park permit is required. (308) 282-0730.
Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area is a half-mile east of Merriman on Highway 20 and a half-mile south. Fishing, boating and tent camping are available. A state park permit is required. (308) 684-3428.