Little Salt Fork Marsh is the perfect place to visit Lincoln’s unique and rare saline wetlands. Saline wetlands are wetland and marsh-like environments with unusual salt levels from shale deposits dating back to when Nebraska and the Midwest were part of the ocean floor. Depending on the time of year, it’s possible to see migrating waterfowl out here. This place is a lovely host for a hike and serves as a public hunting ground. The Lower Platte South NRD owns Little Salt Fork Marsh and is adjacent to several properties owned by Nebraska Game and Parks.
Bobcat Prairie, part of the Prairie Corridor of Haines Branch, is a mixture of remnant and restored tallgrass prairie, woodlands, and wetlands owned by the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District. As part of the Prairie Corridor, Bobcat Prairie helps promote education and awareness of Nebraska environments and is a contributing part to a whole prairie passage and trail system linking Pioneers Park to Spring Creek Prairie Audobon Center. Meant to help preserve Nebraska’s native grasslands for generations to enjoy, this four-mile trail offers hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities, along with two small ponds open to fishing.
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.
Conestoga State Recreation Area has a large lake with waterside trails and camping areas perfect for a weekend getaway. Try fishing, biking, or picnicking and nature-watching alongside the water. In recent years, the lake has had renovations to make the area more wildlife-friendly. In 2018, an Aquatic Habitat Program project removed much sediment from the lake and improved fishing access along the shoreline. This lake is also part of the Prairie Corridor Project, a planned prairie habitat tied together by a limestone bike trail connecting tallgrass prairies surrounding Pioneers Park and the Spring Creek Nature Center. Because Conestoga is located in the middle of the Prairie Corridor, this recreation area will serve as an important passageway between the two habitats. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Conestoga.
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.
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.
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.