From casting a line in a pristine trout stream to a kicking back while camping at a scenic, serene oasis, Nebraska’s state park system, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is an outdoor lover’s dream.
There are 76 areas in our park system and they truly offer something for everyone.
I know. I have firsthand knowledge of all of them.
In my 42 years with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. I have been to EVERY. SINGLE.ONE and even worked in our parks division for a time.
So I have a good breadth of knowledge about these areas.
Our larger state parks, what many call “destination parks” or “resort parks,” get a lot of attention and draw big crowds. We all know that and they’re awesome!
But, I tend to like the little guys just off the beaten path; what I refer to as the hidden gems. These are the many smaller state recreation areas that we have.
Think for a moment. Have you ever been to one of these smaller state recreation areas?
They have interesting names like Victoria Springs, Wildcat Hills, Long Pine, War Axe, Cheyenne and Gallagher Canyon, amid others.
What parallels do the smaller state recreation areas possess? Generally, there are more rustic or primitive campsites, picnic tables, fire grates or fire rings, trash or recycling receptacles, vault latrines, mowed grass, shade trees, water pumps or hydrants and some unique geographic feature or water for outdoor recreation. Some also may have RV camper pads, boat ramps, fishing piers, fish cleaning stations, swimming beaches, playground equipment, nature trails and other recreational facilities.
Sure, you head to one of these smaller areas and will most likely give up some of the more modern amenities for outdoor recreation and camping. However, what you what you have to forego, you will acquire in peace, tranquility, increased opportunities to see wildlife and lots of space to spread out, recreate and relax. As my Omaha neighbor Chad Carter put it: “Going to a smaller public rec area to camp means the hum and wake of personal watercraft and power boats on the water are nonexistent and I can easily kayak where I want.”
Some of these smaller state recreation areas are actually in the shadow of our larger state parks where you could utilize both. For example, you could enjoy the various activities available at Mahoney State Park during the day and retreat to the solitude of nearby Memphis Lake State Recreation Area for placid fishing in the evening and quiet camping at night. The driving distance between the two is only a bit more than 15 minutes!
“It is time for our smaller areas in the state park system to shine,” said Margot Desrocher, program manager in our parks division at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Chances are most Nebraskans have one of these smaller state recreation areas not far from their home to explore.”
Desrocher added: “During the pandemic, these areas have been so important for people. They have enabled folks to get out of the house and have a place to go to safely recreate. This has been a boon to all of us for our physical and mental health.”
Whether you’re into fishing for a specific species of game fish, camping in a tent on a cool summer night, hiking or biking up steep grades, paddling a kayak on calm waters, watching wildlife or just enjoying some fresh air, there’s a quiet, smaller state recreation area for you to enjoy within the scenic borders of the Cornhusker State.
Try one on for size! #NEParks100
Get more information about Nebraska’s varied state parks, recreation areas and historical parks online at OutdoorNebraska.gov
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