Woodland

Nine-Mile Prairie

Nine-Mile Prairie

Nine Mile Prairie is a 230-acre tallgrass prairie located 9 miles northwest of Lincoln’s city center. This grassland hosts hundreds of species of native plants and deer, birds, and pollinators visiting the prairie in the spring and summer. Managed by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, classes are frequently held here to teach students the value and hard work of managing a prairie ecosystem. The area is frequently burned to keep it healthy, and the land has never been plowed. This ecosystem is one of Nebraska’s largest intact high-quality tallgrass prairies. Tables and places are available for picnicking, and a couple PBT timelapse cameras can be spotted here watching the changing seasons.

Olive Creek Wildlife Management Area

Olive Creek Wildlife Management Area

Olive Creek is the perfect place to spend a day outside. This wildlife management area is available for hiking, nature watching, fishing, and more. Various camping spots are available, and many sites have picnic tables to accommodate the whole family. Bring a boat, enjoy sitting on the water, or utilize the public hunting grounds during your chosen season. In October 2022, PBT stationed a timelapse camera here to watch the recovery of the land after a wind-driven wildfire from the south of Firth, NE, burned a large area through Olive Creek. The woodland and riverine habitats support abundant wildlife that depend on the trees, water, and grasslands to survive. Olive Creek is managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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.

Prairie Pines

Prairie Pines

Come and explore 145 acres of woodland and prairie owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation. Established in 1959, Prairie Pines was the home of the first raptor recovery program in Nebraska and the first Conservation Easement in the state, but originally served as a choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm. The land was initially owned by Walter and Virginia Bagley, who transformed the woodlands and prairie into an educational preserve for people to come and spend time in nature. Prairie Pines offers several different hiking trails– each with unique scenery. Come and explore the children’s obstacle course made entirely from fallen trees, the community garden, and the tallgrass prairie– home to birds, deer, and many other wild animals. The mission of Prairie Pines is “to sustain a habitat for all living things through conservation, education, and experience to promote a lasting connection with the natural world and its resources.” This protected land is a great place to spend a day in the woods!

Spring Creek Prairie

Spring Creek Prairie

With less than 2 percent of Nebraska’s original tallgrass prairie left, Spring Creek Prairie is more important than ever. Founded in 1998, it consists of 850 acres of tallgrass prairie–one of Nebraska’s most extensive areas of tallgrass prairie. Owned by the National Audubon Society, Spring Creek Prairie is rich in history, wildlife, and outdoor recreation. Spring Creek focuses on the conservation of Nebraska habitats and birds in particular and has more than 200 species of birds on record, including meadowlarks, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, and numerous rarer migration sightings. Historical wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail cut through the prairie, and plenty of native Nebraska wildflowers and plants such as blue-eyed grass and milkweed grow here.

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.

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.

Bluestem Wildlife Management Area

Bluestem Wildlife Management Area

Bluestem WMA is a sprawling 742 acres of land containing a large lake, beaches, trails, and woods managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Known for having catfish, largemouth bass, pike, walleye, and sunfish, this algae-filled lake is excellent for fishing. Boating and jet skis are welcome, and fishing boat rentals are available on-site if needed. The north end of the lake, near the woodlands, is filled with submerged tree trunks, making it a great habitat for fish. The habitats in and around the lake house many wildlife residents, such as waterfowl, pheasants, quail, and deer. The man-made lake and dam were established in 1963 for flood control under the public flood act of 1958 and continue to be part of the “Salt Creek Outlet Works Modification Project,” which assesses the need for water containment in dams.

Branched Oak

Branched Oak

Welcome to the largest reservoir in eastern Nebraska, managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Branched Oak was built on the old village of Crounse, named after the eighth governor of Nebraska, and still holds a few memories of what used to be there. The whole town was flooded in 1967 after residents moved out, and the reservoir construction was subsequently wrapped up in 1968. A marker in Area 6 points out this old town’s history. As a local sailing destination in the summer, this lake has a great marina for boating. For people wishing to fish, catfish and bass are commonly found here. It also becomes a popular spot to watch bald eagles and other birds, such as cormorants in the spring. Branched Oak hosts several trails through wooded areas, hills, and beaches and is open to horseback riding.

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