Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area is a peaceful recreation area outside Lincoln. With 208 acres of lake and 5 miles of shoreline, this fun U-Shaped lake has plenty of shade along the shore from nearby woodlands. There is abundant space to fish for catfish, walleye, and bass or to kayak, sail, and paddle board. Canada geese often stake their claim on parts of the water, making for entertaining companions on adventures out here. Yankee Hill has camping, picnicking, and hunting opportunities, and foxes, deer, rabbits, and coyotes can frequently be seen. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Yankee Hill WMA.
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.
Jack Sinn is an area of land and water designated by the government for conservation– also known as a wildlife management area, or WMA. It is owned by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and named in honor of a wildlife biologist who passed away in a plane crash while surveying the deer population in the area. This saline wetland is covered mainly by water, is home to many species of waterfowl, and serves as a good spot for hunting– particularly for pheasants. Conservation efforts have occurred here to preserve this ecosystem’s salinity and water levels. Other birds, such as American pipits and cliff sparrows, can be seen here during migration.
Killdeer WMA is an easy escape from the city. If you are looking to kayak, canoe, fish, or hunt, this forested lake is the perfect option. The name comes from the bird killdeer– a type of plover that likes to run, has a double black band around its neck and is known for its shrill two-syllable call. Although it is close to the city, Killdeer’s landscape gives it a serene, isolated, wilderness-y feel while still being close to home. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission owns Killdeer WMA.
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.
Previously a dog park, this saline wetland is a great spot close to Lincoln, offering hiking and plenty of wildlife viewing. You can expect to see abundant avian life, such as marsh wrens, doves, egrets, and several duck species. Muskrats, deer, and foxes also visit the area frequently. Saline wetlands are important because they can collect and filter runoff water and can limit the effects of flooding around an area. There have been several successful introductions of Salt Creek tiger beetles in this area. These beetles, while tiny, host a fiery attitude, running and ambushing their prey while hunting. Salt Creek tiger beetles are endemic to a few very small areas of saline wetlands around Lincoln, Nebraska. After a wetland restoration project was completed in 2017, the preserve has blossomed into an exceptional spot to learn about backyard wetlands and spend time in nature. Marsh Wren is owned by Lower Platte South Natural Resources District.
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.
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.