City Park

Holmes Lake

Holmes Lake

With open waters and a winding path around Holmes Lake, hiking, walking, biking, and kayaking are all welcome here. This lake in the heart of Lincoln was originally built for flood control by the US Army in 1962 and named after George Holmes, a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission began the Aquatic Habitat Program here in 2001 to stabilize the sediment and repopulate fish within the lake. Holmes Lake has also been the site of other water quality improvement plans through the early 2000s, with great success. With excess sediment removed and cleaner waters, Holmes Lake has become a great place for aquatic life as well as recreation. It is a community hotspot with volleyball nets, an extensive playground, and pavillions equipped for summertime grilling. The south side of the lake also hosts Hyde Observatory, allowing Lincoln to have public astronomy shows.

Lower Platte River

Lower Platte River

Here, on the Lower Platte River, lies an access point for those hoping to kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or take a relaxing float down the river. Be on the lookout for least terns and piping plovers, as they love to nest and hang out on sandbars in the river. Piping plovers are a threatened species and rely on the shores of the Platte to breed, make nests, and forage for food. Pallid sturgeon, a critically endangered fish species, also uses the lower Platte to reproduce and live year-round. Deer and other native wildlife frequently visit the river to drink, so keep your eyes open! The North and South Platte Rivers start in Wyoming and Colorado and flow into Nebraska to converge and eventually join the Missouri River. Several access points are available to hop into or off the river, including one at Schramm Park and one at Louisville State Recreation area.

Mahoney State Park

Mahoney State Park

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park was first opened in 1991 after being acquired by the state in the mid-80s in recognition of State Senator Mahoney, who also served as Director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for over 10 years. The state park has served as a recreational area for people of all interests to go outdoors. Complete with hunting grounds, fishing, swimming, hiking, horseback trails, and even a minigolf course, this state park has something for everyone! While you explore, hike through the numerous forest trails, or climb to the top of the Walter Scott Jr. observational tower to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Platte River and surrounding grassland and riverine ecosystems. If you choose to visit in the winter, the hillsides are perfect for sledding. As you traverse these 650 acres of land, you can explore woodland, wetland, and grassland ecosystems teaming with wildlife.

Oak Lake

Oak Lake

Oak Lake city park and recreation area is the perfect place to view urban wildlife, enjoy a picnic, or go for a walk. The park was established in 1922. However, the Lancaster County dump was located right across the street and posed a health and safety hazard for those visiting in search of a breath of fresh air. Citizens of Lincoln continued to use the landfill until the 1950’s, when a new dump was created. The land was given to the Lincoln Parks Department– after which the existing lake was expanded, and a small park was added. Oak Lake is prime real estate for waterfowl of all kinds and when the water levels are drawn down the shoreline becomes a hotspot for migratory shorebirds as make a pitstop to feed and rest on their migration journeys. Equipped with picnic tables, a scenic path around the lake, a dog park, and plenty of fish to catch, Oak Lake is a family-friendly getaway that is an easy and accessible way to get outside.

Pioneers Park

Pioneers Park

Pioneers Park has everything you’re looking for in a good outdoor getaway! Explore the hiking or biking trails, and check out all the wildlife–especially their well-known bison herd! The park’s nature center has a hub of exhibits and items on display to learn about the city of Lincoln’s history. It is also a great place to picnic with friends or send kids out onto the playground. Visit the historical sites and soak up the sounds of the prairie before catching a show at the outdoor Pinewood Bowl theater. Fourth graders come here every year to experience what life and education would be like in the 1890s at the Cunningham School, and summer camps are offered for the youth. As part of a Nebraska conservation effort to help protect tallgrass prairies and wetlands, The Nature Center has maintained Pioneers Park since 1963 and significantly expanded it. An updated plan to preserve and restore these vital environments was renewed multiple times, with the most recent in 2001. The City of Lincoln owns Pioneers Park.

Stagecoach State Rec Area

Stagecoach State Rec Area

Visit one of the twenty Salt Valley lakes surrounding the Lincoln area. Serving as one of the many flood prevention reservoirs formed in the 60s, the Stagecoach State Rec Area is a 195-acre lake surrounded by 607 acres of woodland and grassland. Fishing and boating are everyday activities for those who enjoy the water, and stealthy kayakers can spy on muskrat kits and Great Blue Herons. Bluegill, carp, and walleye are commonly spotted here, along with ducks, geese, and fowl. Camping and hunting opportunities are available for those who prefer to keep their feet on solid ground. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Stagecoach.

Tierra Park

Tierra Park

Owned by the city of Lincoln, Tierra Park is a simple 123-acre community park with winding trails, open green spaces, and trees that provide shade in the summer. It offers fresh air and an excellent opportunity to escape the urban bustle and explore the great outdoors while remaining in the city. The soccer field, skate park, disc golf area, and trail are open for activities, and there are also benches and a sheltered area for picnicking. One of the main trails, the 3-mile-long Tierra/Williamsburg Trail, started in the 90s and eventually expanded. It now connects to several other trails and recreation places, such as Yankee Hill and Pine Lake. Beal Slough also runs through the park as it makes its way through the center of Lincoln to converge with Salt Creek to the north. Plenty of ducks and geese can be seen along the trail, and you may even spot a deer or two drinking from the river’s edge.

Wagon Train Wildlife Management Area

Wagon Train Wildlife Management Area

Wagon Train is the spot for those seeking a peaceful time away from the city. This wildlife management and recreation area is about 25 miles south of Lincoln, near the town of Hickman. It has 746 acres of woodlands and grasslands and is perfect for mountain biking, hiking, camping, and picnicking. The 315-acre lake is well-suited for fishing, kayaking, and swimming. The lake is stocked with bass and bluegill, native species in Nebraska. In 2022, invasive fish species like carp, which were crowding the lake, were removed as a part of a larger plan to improve habitats in this lake and several other lakes. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Wagon Train WMA.

Wilderness Park

Wilderness Park

Wilderness Park is Lincoln’s largest city park. 1,472 acres of dense woodlands sprinkled with prairie meadows and creek beds offer outdoor activities from hiking to cross-country skiing, horseback riding to fishing, and birding to nature photography. Because it surrounds Salt Creek, the land often adapts and changes according to the rising and lowering of the water and can be completely flooded during spring. In fact, Wilderness Park was created when the village of Lancaster kept flooding during the 1940s and 50s, resulting in the deaths of 9 people. The US Army Corps decided to take action in 1958. By channeling Salt Creek and creating an open space for the water to flow, Wilderness Park was born as a flood control area. Foxes, opossums, hawks, and owls can be spotted here along the several dirt trails ribboned through these woods. The prominent 6.5-mile Jamaican North Trail leading south out of the park connects to the Homestead Trail and will continue to take you to Kansas. The City of Lincoln owns Wilderness Park.

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