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.
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.
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.
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.
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.