Nebraska State Outdoors

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State Parks
Camping and Hiking
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Nebraska State Parks

Fort Robinson State Park
Western Nebraska's premier state park, Fort Robinson, west of Crawford, has it all-with over 22,000 acres of exquisite Pine Ridge scenery, compelling old west history, exceptional lodging, loads of fun-time activities, scenic camping and the park's own buffalo herd. Visitors can choose lodging for rooms 1909 enlisted men's quarters or "cabins" ranging from two to nine bedrooms in the former officers quarters. A shady campground offers 75 non-pad sites with 30 amp electrical hookups plus another 100 primitive sites. This historic outpost served from the days of the Indian Wars until after World War II. This was the site of the 1879 Cheyenne Outbreak and the death of the famed Sioux Chief Crazy Horse. Over the years, the fort served the Red Cloud Indian Agency, as a cavalry remount station, K-9 dog-training center, and POW cam and beef research station. Activities include horseback trail rides, stagecoach rides, jeep tours, buffalo stew cookout, tour train rides, hiking, bicycle rentals, fishing, and much more. This area offers some of the choicest panoramic vistas to be round anywhere in the state. Visitors can bring their own horses and enjoy the 30,000 acres of public land. Rental stalls can accommodate 180 horses. Excellent hike-bike trails lace the area. Additional Information and Reservations: Fort Robinson State Park, PO Box 392, Crawford, NE 69339-2392 Phone: 308-665-2900


Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is designated for year-around accommodations and recreational use. This ultra-modern park offers a spectacular array of lodging, group meeting facilities and activities. Located in eastern Nebraska, near Ashland, along I-80 at exit 426, this park is nestled on 665 acres along the picturesque Platte River. A Dominate feature of the park, the Lodge offers 40 (plus more being built) guest rooms some with sleeping lofts and fireplaces. The Park Lodge also houses the restaurant, gift shop, and meeting rooms. Other lodging accommodations include fully equipped modern cabins, and two modern RV areas; primitive tent camping is also available. Recreational activities run the gamut and include; a swimming pool and two 200-plus foot curling water slides, miniature gold, driving range, tennis courts, soccer and softball fields, horseback trail rides, fishing, picnicking, hiking, crafts, a 70 foot observation tower, Platte River canoe trips, nature conservator, mini theater, playhouse, sand volleyball and waterway. Activities during the winter, depending on conditions, include cross-country skiing, sledding, toboggan runs, ice-skating and ice fishing. Additional Information and Reservations: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 W. Park Hwy., Ashland, NE 68003-3508 Phone: 402-944-2523


Niobrara State Park
This northeast Nebraska park near the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers is ideal for family vacations and fishing trips. This 1,640-acre park offers; modern housekeeping cabins, a group conference facility, modern campground, tent campsites and adirondack shelters. Recreational activities include raft rides on the Missouri River, trail rides, a swimming pool, nearby boat access to the Missouri River, picnic shelters, hiking and interpretive shelter on the Lewis and Clark National Trail. A 2.1-mile, handicap-accessible, hike-bide trail along the northern boundary features a fishing bridge across the Niobrara. Additional Information and Reservation: Niobrara State Park, PO Box 226, Niobrara, NE 687600-0226 Phone: 402-857-3373


Ponca State Park
Sitting astride the bluffs of the Missouri River near the town on Ponca in Northeaster Nebraska this picturesque 859 acre State Park offers outdoor recreation for the whole family. Lodging includes: two-bedroom housekeeping cabins and a modern campground. Facilities and activities include: boat ramp access to the Missouri River, swimming pool, horseback trail rides, picnic tables and shelters, hiking trails and more. Additional Information and Reservations: Ponca State Park, PO Box 688, Ponca, NE 68770-0688. Phone: 402-755-2284


Platte River State Park
Situated amid the heavily wooded Platte River hills near Louisville, in eastern Nebraska, Platte River offers a wide range of activities, lodging and group facilities. Platte River provides a rare choice of accommodations; including on to four-bedroom housekeeping cabins (some with fireplaces), camper-cabins arranged in a pod with four to six cabins sharing showers and restrooms. Visitors here can even stay in a teepee village. Platte River has excellent facilities for groups. Recreational activities include swimming, hiking, paddleboats, tennis, archery, volleyball, horseback trail rides and Platte River canoe trips. Additional Information and Reservations: Platte River State River, 14421 346th St., Louisville, NE 68037-3001. Phone: 402-234-2217


Camping and Hiking in Nebraska

Chadron State Park
The majestic beauty of the Pine Ridge forms the backdrop for this great, get-away-from-it-all state park, 9 miles south of Chadron on US Hwy. 385, in the northwest Nebraska. At an elevation of nearly 5,000 ft. the 972-acre park ties in the heart of the Nebraska National Forest and is dominated by ponderosa pines. The park boasts cabins, plus a group camp/conference facility, a brand-new, modern campground. Excellent hike-bike trails lace the park and adjoining Forest Service lands. Facilities include: swimming pool, horseback trail rides, new tennis and sand volleyball courts, craft center, snack bar, mountain bike rentals, paddleboats on the picturesque lagoon, fishing, hiking, evening programs, picnic tables, shelter, water dumping station, showers, and modern restrooms. Additional Information and Reservations: Chadron State Park, 14951 Hwy 385, Chadron, NE 69337-7353. Phone: 308-432-6167


Fort Kearny State Historical Park and Recreation Area
Built to protect the Overland Trail travelers, Fort Kearny SHP, near Kearny, along I-80, was a stage station, home station for the Pony Express, outfitting depot for the Indian campaigns and home of the Pawnee Scouts. The stockade, parade grounds and blacksmith shop have been rebuilt. Nearby Fort Kearny SRA offers 186 acres dotted with sandpit lakes. In the spring, the world's largest concentration of sandhill cranes and waterfowl gathers in the central Platte River valley. Facilities include camping, showers, dump station, modern restrooms, water, picnic tables, grills, shelters, handicap fishing pier, nature trail, non-power boating and hike-bike trails. Additional Information and Tours: Fort Kearny SHP, 1020 V Road, Kearny, NE 68847-9804 Phone: 308-864-5305


Indian Cave State Park
RV campground, modern with 3.052 rugged acres bordering the mighty Missouri River, Indian Cave is a pristine area devoted to camping, hiking, backpacking, picnicking, nature and wilderness activities. Located 10 miles south of Brownsville and 5 miles east on S-64E, in southeast Nebraska., Indian Cave boasts a variety of hardwood trees, shrubs, and other flora. There are 20 miles of biking trails in the park. Autumn is particularly spectacular here. Horseback trail rides and cruises on the Missouri River are also available in season. A new boat ramp offers river access for boaters. Facilities include: restrooms, showers, water, laundry, dump station, plenty of room for primitive and group camping. Adirondack shelters are available for backpackers. Additional Information: Indian Cave State Park, RR1 Box 30, Shubert, NE 68437-9801 Phone: 402-883-2575


Schramm Park State Recreation Area
Located about 6 miles south of I-80 exit 432, in eastern Nebraska, 340 acre Schramm Park SRA is another picturesque Platte River area and home of the exceptional Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium. Schramm is also the site of the state's first fish hatchery (1882), the old hatch house is now a fish management museum and there is an interesting geologic display nearby. The picnic areas offer spectacular views of the countryside, and there is a 3-mile nature-hiking trail divided into two 1-1/2 mile segments. Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium houses 12 viewing tanks with intriguing displays of native and introduced fish species. Films and slide programs are shown in the theater and there is a large terrarium. Additional Information and Field Trips Info: Schramm Parks SRA and Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium, 21501 W. Hwy 31, Gretna, NE 68028. Phone: 402-332-3901


Johnson Lake State Recreation Area
Excellent camping and water sports are hallmarks of this every-popular area. Located 10 miles south of Lexington, in central Nebraska, I-80 exit 237. The 68 acres of State Recreation Area packs a lot of outdoor fun and provides 3 access points to the 2, 068-acre lake. Facilities include: camping, pad and non-pad sites, showers, water, restrooms, dump station, shelters, picnic tables, grills, 2 boat ramps, unsupervised swimming beach and accessible fishing piers. Additional Information: Johnson Lake SRA, 1 E. Park Dr. 25A, Elwood, NE 68937. Phone: 308-785-2685


Hunting and Fishing in Nebraska

Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallal State Recreation Areas
Nebraska's largest reservoir at 35,700 surface acres and 100 miles of shoreline is Lake McConaughy; it teams with Lake Ogallala (320 acres) to provide some of the finest water sports recreation anywhere in the Midwest. Lake McConaughy SRA covers 5,492 land acres on 12 acres, while Lake Ogallala SRA adds another 339 land acres. Located 9 miles north of Ogallala, I-80 exit 126, in west central Nebraska. The two lakes offer excellent fishing, boating, camping and hunting. Camping ranges from modern to primitive depending on the area. At full storage, Lake McConaughy is 20 miles long four miles wide and 142 feet deep at the dam. With it's cool, clear blue waters, fishing is the lake's primary drawing card but because of its white sandy beaches, Big Mac is also noted for its sailing, camping, windsurfing, scuba diving, water skiing and picnicking. It also has year around activities such as hunting, ice boating, ice-skating, backpacking and birding. Lake Ogallala ranks as Nebraska's No. 1 eagle-viewing spot. A special indoor (and heated) eagle viewing facility is open from mid December until eagles leave the area usually toward the end of February or by Mid-March. Additional Information: Lake McConaughy SRA, 1500 Hwy. 61N, Ogallala, NE 69153-5930. Phone: 308-284-3542


Lewis and Clark Lake State Recreation Area
Gavins Point Dam hold back the Missouri River, creating the state's second largest reservoir at 32,000 water acres to provide water sports and camping fun on Nebraska's northeastern border, north of Crofton. The State Recreation Area encompasses 1.315 acres with many camping pads and non-pad camping sites. Other facilities include: four boat ramps, picnic tables, shelters, water, showers, restrooms, and a dump station. Boat docks available for lease at marina. Additional Information: Lewis and Clark SRA, RR1 Box 308, Crofton, NE 68718-0171. Phone: 402-388-4169


Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area
See a magnificent Sandhills sunrise from one of the state's premier fishing lakes. Merritt SRA covers 9,053 acres, 25 miles SW of Valentine in north central Nebraska, with 2,906-acre lake, boating, seventy-three miles of tree-lined shore. Facilities include: primitive camping, dumping station, water, picnic tables, shelters, vault toilets, 4 boat ramps, fire grates, fish cleaning stations, and the concession has cabins and rental boats. Fisherman flock to Merritt to try for walleye, bass, perch, muskie, catfish or crappie; dozens of Master Angler and state records have been recorded there. Hunters find plentiful duck, grouse, dove and both whitetail and mule deer on state land during hunting season. Turkeys inhabit the wooded canyons. Additional Information: Merritt Reservoir, 420 East 1st St., Valentine, NE 69201. Phone: 402-376-3320


Enders, Swanson, Red Willow and Medicine Creek State Recreation, Areas
Four southwest Nebraska reservoirs provide nearly 28,357 acres of water-based recreation for fishing, boating, water skiing, hunting and winter sports. All offer camping, water, picnic tables, grills, shelters, modern restrooms, vault toilets, boat ramps and hunting. The largest reservoir is Swanson SRA near Trenton with a 4,974-acre lake and 3,957 land acres. Enders SRA, near Enders has 3,278 acres of land on a 1,707-acre lake, part of which is set-aside as a waterfowl refuge. Red Willow SRA, near McCook, offers 4,320 acres of land around a 1,628-acre lake. Medicine Creek SRA, north of Cambridge, has 6,726 land acres on a 1,768-acre lake. Additional Information: Southwest Reservoirs, 602 Missouri Ave., McCook, NE 69001-2939. Phone: 308-345-6507


Branched Oak and Pawnee Lake State Recreation Areas
Branched Oak Lake and Pawnee Lake are the largest, most popular areas in the Salt Valley Lakes near Lincoln. Both are ideally suited for fishing, power boating, water skiing and swimming at the unsupervised beaches, camping and picnicking. Branched Oak encompasses 5,595 acres with 1,800 acres of water. Pawnee has a 740-acre lake on 2,446 total acres. Additional Information: Branched Oak SRA, RR1 Box 61, Raymond, NE 68428-9728 or Pawnee Lake SRA, RR4 Box 41B, Lincoln, NE 68524-8814


Other Nebraska Outdoor activities

Nebraska also offers the following outdoor activities:
  • Canoeing: The Niobrara River heads the list of nine rivers in Nebraska that thrill canoeist and tubers. Backpacker magazine names this National Scenic river one of the top 10 canoe rivers in the nation. Other rivers to canoe in Nebraska include Platte, Dismal, Republican, Elkhorn, Calamus, the North and Middle Loup and Missouri.
  • Cowboy Trail State Recreation Trail, the nations longest rail-to-trail conversion of abandoned Chicago & Northwestern railroad right-of-way, and Nebraska's first State Recreational Trail.
  • Visits to working ranches. Call the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism, 800-228-4307 for specific details.
  • Rodeos are held throughout the state of Nebraska, most being held on weekends in the spring, summer and fall; however some rough-stock rodeos are held in-doors during winter months.
  • Re-tracing historic trails, including the Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail, Mormon Trail, Overland Trail, Deadwood Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail.
  • Golf- more than 156 public links. For more information call the Nebraska Golf Association, 402-486-1440, or Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism, 800-228-4307.
  • Wildlife viewing-Nebraska is the best place in the world to see Sandhill Cranes, every spring thousands descend on the Platte River Valley in their migration path north. More than 85 wildlife sites are available for public viewing. Contact the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism for a list, 800-228-4307.
  • Visit fossil beds, and interpretive facilities.