Hiking / Trail Running

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.

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.

Prairie Pines

Prairie Pines

Come and explore 145 acres of woodland and prairie owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation. Established in 1959, Prairie Pines was the home of the first raptor recovery program in Nebraska and the first Conservation Easement in the state, but originally served as a choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm. The land was initially owned by Walter and Virginia Bagley, who transformed the woodlands and prairie into an educational preserve for people to come and spend time in nature. Prairie Pines offers several different hiking trails– each with unique scenery. Come and explore the children’s obstacle course made entirely from fallen trees, the community garden, and the tallgrass prairie– home to birds, deer, and many other wild animals. The mission of Prairie Pines is “to sustain a habitat for all living things through conservation, education, and experience to promote a lasting connection with the natural world and its resources.” This protected land is a great place to spend a day in the woods!

Stagecoach State Rec Area

Stagecoach State Rec Area

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.

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.

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