Outdoor recreation is a popular draw to the Decatur area with hunting and fishing of just about any species. Pheasants, quail, dove, turkey, ducks, geese, deer, squirrel, rabbit are abundant with liberal limits for any hunter. The Missouri River provides year round fishing with the primary target being “Missouri River Trout” — better known as “Carp.” Decatur Lake, just off the east end of the famous dry land bridge, provides excellent bullhead fishing as well as many of the other species of fish, The Decatur Marina is a popular resort in the summer months and provides recreation for many visitors.
Missouri River and the Famous Dry Land Bridge
From the beginning, fortunes of Decatur were closely tied to the Missouri River. Many boats tied up at the Decatur landing during the heyday of river traffic, transporting supplies and lumber. Townspeople would board the boats and dance on the decks. Ferry boats carried horses, wagons and cars across the river until the late 1930s. Among the more famous steamers that came to Decatur were the Emily La Barge, the Deerlodge, and the Cora.
In 1946, the Burt County Bridge Commission asked the U.S. Army Engineers to approve a bridge site at Decatur. Construction of the Decatur Bridge was authorized in 1950.
The village of Decatur received nation wide notoriety in the 1950s because of the famous dry land bridge that was supposed to be across the Missouri River. The original plans were to build the bridge across the Missouri River to connect Decatur to Onawa, Iowa. The river, on the other hand, had different ideas and changed its course thus leaving the proposed bridge site about a quarter of a mile distant from the river. Plans were changed and the bridge was built on dry land with the river to be rechanneled under the bridge upon completion. The bridge was completed in 1951, but because of the Korean War, Federal funds could not be appropriated to place the water under the bridge. The $2 million bridge soon was well known as the bridge “that went nowhere, because it lost its river.” Funds finally became available to move the Missouri River under the bridge and the first traffic crossed the bridge on December 19, 1955. The bridge was officially opened May 5, 1956 during Decatur’s Centennial.
A long envisioned pedestrian bridge over Elm Creek linking Beck Memorial Park to downtown Decatur became a reality December 31, 1997. The structure is a joint project of the village of Decatur and the Papio-Missouri River NRD. The 150-foot bridge, weighing 46,000 pounds, arrived December 30, in two seventy-five foot sections which were bolted together at the site. The bridge was erected into place the next day on two reinforced concrete abutments and eight 40-foot steel pilings. Fabricated from atmospheric corrosion resistant steel requiring no maintenance, the bridge has a six foot wide wood deck and 54″ high sides with horizontal safety rails placed on the inside of the truss. Concrete approaches were constructed in the Spring of 1998. On June 21, 1998, the Burt County Bridge Commission dedicated the footbridge in honor of Jack Maryott, a long-time Decatur mayor and councilman who passed away in December 1998.
Beck & Busse – Brewer Memorial Park
On July 27, 1972, the Decatur Village Board held a special session to discuss the possible purchase of land owned by Kenneth Wilson along the Missouri River to be used as a recreational park. Mr. Wilson sold 22 unimproved lots for $6,600 to the village of Decatur. The park project received full support from mayor Kenneth Beck and the council members. Fortunately, Jack Maryott accepted the position of mayor and played an important role in establishing the new park after the death of Kenneth Beck in 1972. Jack’s brother-in-law, Jim Eagleton was an administrative executive for the Corps of Engineers and was a major influence in the Federal grants received for the construction of the beautiful park.
In March of 1975, the Williams Pipe Line Company gave permission for the use of land located north of the ball park for $1.00 to be used as a waste disposal site. Because of a lower construction bid by the Lincoln Construction Company, additional funds were available to build the group shelters and comfort stations.
The new park was named Beck Memorial Park in memory of Kenneth Beck who had served the village 27 years as a council member and mayor. In 1975, one of the most beautiful camping parks in Nebraska was officially opened to the public. In 1990, a grant for a fish cleaning station and boat ramp were approved and a floating dock was also added. In June of 1991, showers were installed for the comfort of the guests. Eight new camping pads were recently finished to supply more camping area. A second shower house with handicapped accessibility was added in 2002.
Mike Farber Memorial Field
Decatur has two baseball diamonds. The diamonds were dedicated to the memory of Mike Farber, a Nebraska State Highway Patrolman, who lost his life in the line of duty. Mike had been a patrolman for two years, when he was killed as a result of a high speed chase on August 12, 1980 at 24 years of age.