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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.