The BIRDING TRAIL begins on the west side of the Middle Loup River bridge. Go south I 1/2 miles and you begin to see mourning doves, cardinals, thrashers, golden shafted flickers, goldfinches, eastern bluebirds, and many others. Watch the trees for wood ducks, hawks and owls. Turn west for 1 1/2 miles and watch for bobolinks which nest in the grass fields. Red-winged blackbirds frequent the creek along the road. You can drive the road most of the time although it is a minimum maintenance road – but the best way to see all the birds is to walk these two roads. Turn south and drive past the Dowse Sod House (stop and visit, you will enjoy it). Drive on to Oak Grove and take a walk down the minimum maintenance road south (stay on the road as the area is private property). Watch for an array of birds and wildlife. Drive or walk through Comstock as many of the residents feed birds – you may see rose-breasted grosbeaks, blackheaded grosbeaks, orchard and baltimore orioles in May and June; goldfinches, cardinals, robins, blue jays, redheaded woodpeckers, downy and hairy woodpeckers, chickadees, red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches, indigo buntings, mourning doves and occasionally a ringed dove. Also watch for rufous crowned and chipping sparrows and as you travel the northeast comer of town watch for thrashers and quail. Always watch for wild turkeys who stroll through the streets.
Established in 1997, visitors will be treated to an array of hundreds of plants, trees, and shrubs as they walk the paths, one of which is of engraved paving stones leading to a lighted gazebo. Other pathways take you to a pergola, through arches, over a bridge, and to a raised herb bed, with numerous benches along the way for rest and reflection. One will find whimsical characters, clever signs, and endless decorations as you meander through the garden which covers one-half city block. The remains of Comstock’s first electrical plant has been transformed into the Friendship Patio complete with fire ring, where visitors are invited to have a cool drink, picnic, or a wiener roast. Sandhills Labyrinth provides a more serious stroll as this circle path meanders back and forth leading to the center where you can sit to reflect, meditate or pray. No matter how much time one chooses to spend in Centennial Garden, or for what purpose, you are guaranteed an unbelievable experience!
Comstock City Park offers family fun with tennis court, basket ball hoops, sand volleyball, horseshoe pit, 3 basket disc golf course, picnic tables and shelters, outdoor grills for barbecuing, big slide made from old school’s fire escape and other playground attractions.
Diversion Dam, located south of Comstock on the Middle Loup River, provides fishing and hunting on public grounds as well as primitive camp sites.
Dowse Sod House
Earth has reclaimed most of the sod houses which once made Custer County the “sod house capital of the world,” yet the Dowse Sod house, built at the tail-end of the sod house era, stands as one of the few’ remaining original and furnished sod houses in Nebraska.
William Ryan Dowse, son of the first white family to settle in Custer County, constructed this sod house in 1900 for his bride-to-be, Florence E. Murphy. Heavy earth matted by bluestem grass was plowed when the ground was moist, preventing crumbling of the soil. The plowed soil was laid out in long strips, then cut into brick-size pieces 30″ long, 4 to 5″ deep.- Sod bricks were laid grass-side down on’ he rising wall and the tops planed level. The root system held the sod together. Dirt “shavings” were packed into crevasses of the newly-built rows. The thick walls insulated the home from temperature extremes, being 2 1/2′ deep. Although the windows appear very narrow from the outside, inside the walls fan away to permit maximum entrance of light without loss of insulation or structural support. Across the completed walls Dowse laid two-by-fours. Muslin was stretched beneath the ceiling: boards and fastened by carpet tacks. This formed the ceiling for the original rooms and was not replaced until about 1915. Twice yearly Florence took the muslin ceiling down for washing. Most sod houses were roofed by laying sod over building paper-covered boards. Dowse used cedar shingles which- still protect the interior. He later thrust the sod exterior walls with cement, which account for it still standing after it was abandoned as a dwelling in the 1950’s.
Curt and Phillip Dowse, two of the five sons born to this family, enlisted the help of the Community Club to restore this historical site to its existing condition. A 1″ scale replica of the sod house as it was originally constructed may be seen at Gallery: Art and Creativity Center, 80880 Oak Grove Road, Comstock.
The sod house is located southwest of Comstock. On 183 between Ansley and Sargent, turn east onto 21-C at the Comstock sign and continue six miles to the Dowse Sod House sign. Go south on Oak Grove Road 3 1/2 miles to the home. There is no admission charge. Guided tours are available year-round by pre-arrangement. Phone 308-628 4370 or 308-628-4231.
Art & Creativity Center
Gallery: Art & Creativity Center, housed in a century-old church, is located one mile west of Comstock on the 21-C spur, then one mile south to 80800 Oak Grove Road. The sanctuary displays work of the artist-in-residence, Sue oiler Dowse, and many other Nebraska-related artists. In addition to paintings, sculptings, photography, hand-blown glass, painted furniture, and other aspects of two- and three-dimensional art forms, one can find many specialty gift items, both practical and fanciful. Most of the artwork is available for purchase.
The art gallery was originally established in 2000 in the spacious upper level of the Dowse home to the south. When Wescott Baptist Church relocated in town the facility was reinvented into a showcase for the arts by spring of 2006. This affords area artists a showcase for their work. It houses two major shows annually: the Vissi d’Arte Club competition in May and the Association of Nebraska Art Clubs traveling show whose exhibit dates vary. One-man shows are on the calender affording a good rotation of exhibits. The lower level is used as a gathering place for the art club and is also teaching studio for artists of all ages in groups or individually. Most supplies are furnished and lessons taught at cost to develop art skills and to encourage art appreciation.
Groups and individuals are cordially invited to enjoy an art experience by touring the facility which is always open by chance or by appointment by phoning 308.628-4370 or 308.215-0076. There is no admission charge, but donations are gladly accepted toward the cost of supplies and equipment in the learning center.
Oak Grove is a state park west and south of Comstock along the Middle Loup River, has hunting and fishing and primitive camping