In 1893 the Crystal Ice Company dammed a portion of the Little Blue River 1 1/4 miles north of
Ayr, creating "Crystal Lake" for harvesting and selling ice. A huge storage and loading facility
was built on the nearby Republican Valley branch of the Burlington Railroad. Horse-drawn
scoring knives and long, back breaking ice saws, later replaced by power saws, cut the 16" thick
ice into 9'2" squares, which were floated down a channel to be cut into twenty-five, 22" x 22"
cakes. Ten thousand tons per season was the capacity. A large ice house was filled for the
Hastings trade, and hundreds of carloads were sold to the railroad. This winter ice harvest
provided a thirty-day income for as many as fifty workers.
In the 1920s mechanical refrigeration ended the ice business and Crystal Lake became a private
recreation area for picnics, dancing, swimming, boating, fishing, and skating. In 1937 the 63-acre
site was purchased by the state and improved by the WPA. Silt eventually filled the lake, and in
1976 a $180,818 renovation of the lake and park was a project of the Ayr Bicentennial
Committee. Crystal Lake State Recreation Area is part of the Nebraska Game and Parks
Nebraska State Historical Society
Ayr Bicentennial Committee
U.S. 281, 1 1/2 mile north of Ayr, State Recreation Area