Victoria Springs State Recreation Area
Backstory and Context
Victoria Springs State Recreation Area is the second land acquisition and the third oldest park in Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s history. The Nebraska Legislature created Chadron State Park on state school land in 1921, and a state park board to oversee it. These actions spurred the local citizens of Custer County. New Helena’s groves of trees and mineral springs were considered a perfect spot for a park. The area also had historical value, and it had been the wish of the original owners that this area might someday become a public park to benefit the community.
On May 23, 1922, Governor McKelvie and members of the park board visited New Helena and inspected the proposed park site. Fifteen hundred Custerites greeted the governor and the board members. A picnic dinner and program held in the afternoon impressed the governor and the park board members. The Nebraska Blue Book states that in 1923 the legislature authorized the acceptance of 60 acres of land in Custer County to be known as Victoria Springs Park. In October 1923, funding was still needed to complete the land purchase. The time limit was short, but help came from a fund drive and an article by E.R. Purcell stating that if funds were not raised immediately, the area stood a good chance of losing the park forever.
The land required some improvements before it could become a park. Steps taken to preserve the historic cabins included replacing the sod roofs with shingles and placing a fence around the cabins. The Park Board also felt it was important to cover the mineral springs to make them safe. Two large community-wide cleanups helped to trim trees and beautify the park. On August 12, 1925, the Park Board and Governor Adam McMullen opened Victoria Springs Park to a crowd of forty-five hundred people.
In 1930, the Park Board approved creating two dams across the creek, thereby forming a spring-fed lake with an outlet at the lower end. Sand was brought in, and a bathhouse was constructed. In the 1930s, the lake was a popular swimming spot. Later, with swimming abandoned, the bathhouse moved and made into living quarters for the superintendent’s helper. In 1932 the Superintendent’s residence was built. A relic house was built in 1937 that housed many historical artifacts from the area. This building was torn down in the 1990s and the artifacts returned to the Custer County Historical Society and donors. A complete electrical hook up system was donated to the park in memory of James Lindley in 1976. A shower house and new water system were installed in 1978. Improvements over the years include a playground, tables, grills, a large group shelter, two reservable cabins, electric and non-electric camping, and paddle boat rentals.
Victoria Springs State Recreation Area has a fascinating and rich history. It begins with homesteaders such as C.R. Mathews and his two cabins, the creation of the Victoria Mineral Springs Company, and the New Helena one-room schoolhouse, ending with the development of Victoria Springs State Recreation Area. This beautiful park is one of a kind.
The Anselmo Historical Society. Victoria Creek Neighbors: 100 Years of Memories (Callaway: Loup Valley Queen Press, 1986)
Custer County Historical Society
The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) · 17 Aug 1925, Mon · Page 1
Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) · 15 Jul 1927, Fri · Page 17
Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) · 12 Aug 1925, Wed · Page 1
Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) · 12 Aug 1925, Wed · Page 1a