Picnicking

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.

Arnold Heights Park

Arnold Heights Park

Arnold Heights Park has a trail to follow to a serene view of Lincoln atop the infamous “Tanker Hill,” a perfect place for sledding. It also has benches available for picnicking. Enjoy the scenery on a hot summer day under the shade of the trees, or come back during the winter to have some sledding fun. Arnold Heights Park is owned by the City of Lincoln.

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.

Conestoga State Recreation Area

Conestoga State Recreation Area

Conestoga State Recreation Area has a large lake with waterside trails and camping areas perfect for a weekend getaway. Try fishing, biking, or picnicking and nature-watching alongside the water. In recent years, the lake has had renovations to make the area more wildlife-friendly. In 2018, an Aquatic Habitat Program project removed much sediment from the lake and improved fishing access along the shoreline. This lake is also part of the Prairie Corridor Project, a planned prairie habitat tied together by a limestone bike trail connecting tallgrass prairies surrounding Pioneers Park and the Spring Creek Nature Center. Because Conestoga is located in the middle of the Prairie Corridor, this recreation area will serve as an important passageway between the two habitats. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Conestoga.

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.

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.

Oak Lake

Oak Lake

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 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.

Pioneers Park

Pioneers Park

Pioneers Park has everything you’re looking for in a good outdoor getaway! Explore the hiking or biking trails, and check out all the wildlife–especially their well-known bison herd! The park’s nature center has a hub of exhibits and items on display to learn about the city of Lincoln’s history. It is also a great place to picnic with friends or send kids out onto the playground. Visit the historical sites and soak up the sounds of the prairie before catching a show at the outdoor Pinewood Bowl theater. Fourth graders come here every year to experience what life and education would be like in the 1890s at the Cunningham School, and summer camps are offered for the youth. As part of a Nebraska conservation effort to help protect tallgrass prairies and wetlands, The Nature Center has maintained Pioneers Park since 1963 and significantly expanded it. An updated plan to preserve and restore these vital environments was renewed multiple times, with the most recent in 2001. The City of Lincoln owns Pioneers Park.

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