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.
With open waters and a winding path around Holmes Lake, hiking, walking, biking, and kayaking are all welcome here. This lake in the heart of Lincoln was originally built for flood control by the US Army in 1962 and named after George Holmes, a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission began the Aquatic Habitat Program here in 2001 to stabilize the sediment and repopulate fish within the lake. Holmes Lake has also been the site of other water quality improvement plans through the early 2000s, with great success. With excess sediment removed and cleaner waters, Holmes Lake has become a great place for aquatic life as well as recreation. It is a community hotspot with volleyball nets, an extensive playground, and pavillions equipped for summertime grilling. The south side of the lake also hosts Hyde Observatory, allowing Lincoln to have public astronomy shows.
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.
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.