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.
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.
The MoPac trail is a great jogging and biking path for people of any skill level. For the especially dedicated, 22 miles of trail are available for you to explore! For those who like to take the scenic route, feel free to journey at your own pace. While walking, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife you may encounter along the trail; deer, foxes, squirrels, and birds use the MoPac as a corridor. Wildlife corridors are vital for native species in an increasingly urbanizing area and serve as a “safe space” for animals to travel between resources and populations over large distances. Protecting them ensures the health and safety of native species, as well as gives us a scenic place to enjoy nature. The Lower Platte South NRD manages this trail through several Nebraska towns.
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 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.
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.