Hiking / Trail Running

Frank Shoemaker Marsh

Frank Shoemaker Marsh

Frank Shoemaker Marsh is an area just north of Lincoln that is comprised of 160 acres of eastern saline wetlands. It was named after Frank Shoemaker, a photographer and naturalist who spent much of his life documenting the natural beauty and biological diversity of Nebraska. Little Salt Creek flows quietly throughout the marsh and sustains habitat for a wide variety of bird species, and an observation deck and trail provide the perfect opportunity to observe them. Binoculars or a camera are a must!

Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area

Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area

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

Little Salt Fork Marsh

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.

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.

Mahoney State Park

Mahoney State Park

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.

Marsh Wren Saline Wetland

Marsh Wren Saline Wetland

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.

Mopac Trail

Mopac Trail

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

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.

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