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Parks | Wildlife


Out in the Cold
I was soon on the trail, looking out at the snowy forest. I drew a deep, cold breath, then watched it unfurl like smoke. No one had yet set foot here...

Nebraska's Hidden Campgrounds
Nebraska has many small camping areas that provide a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. While some are remote and rugged, they are great spots for a getaway into nature.

Three Nights in a Recreational Vehicle
The Carroll family trades its tent for six wheels to explore northeastern campgrounds.


Blow Boat Cats
Shallow water and plenty of sandbars make navigating the Platte River nearly impossible in a conventional motorboat, but those obstacles don't phase airboats, making the craft a perfect choice for anglers looking to pull catfish from its waters.
Fishing With Tom
Whether it's fly-fishing for salmon in Alaska or taking some boys to a Lincoln-area farm pond, former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne loves fishing.
A Plan for Success--A First Look at This Year's Fishing Trips
Maps....Computers....Surveys....Biologists. Spending a bit more time in the off-season organizing this year's fishing trips will pay the dividends you're looking for during the fishing season.
Going Fishing--A Plan for Success--Part II
Afternoon trips....Two-day retreats....Weeklong excursions. The following tips include how to arrange this year's fishing trips, regardless of how long you want to fish, plus a few dream trips of my own.
Intro to Fly-Fishing
For the second year, Garden County High School science and biology instructor Jerry Sutton's class, "Freshwater Ecology--From the Fly-Fisherman's Perspective" is attracting a lot of attention. Students, parents, volunteer instructors, and a host of statewide observers, including fisheries biologists and educators, are interested in Sutton's innovative educational and motivating curriculum.
Fishing Across Nebraska: A Guide to Public Fishing Lakes in the I-80 Corridor
Interstate 80 stretches 455 miles across Nebraska, which makes for a long drive. Luckily, during most of the trip there are often lakes located near the interstate where you can take a break, stretch the legs and enjoy some good fishing. Here's a guide to some of them.
A World Apart--Merritt Reservoir SRA
Located on the edge of the Sandhills and far from the lights of the city, scenic Merritt Reservoir is a popular destination for anglers, hunters and anyone else who enjoys natures and solitude.
Grove Lake Trout Rearing Station
Located north of Royal on the east branch of Verdigre Creek, this facility raises trout fingerlings in a park-like setting. Visitors are welcome to stop by and view the facility and can even feed the trout themselves.
Muskie Hunt
Until a few years ago, Merritt Reservoir and Watts Lake were the only muskie waters in Nebraska. But, with an improved method of stocking, fisheries biologists are now establishing muskies in several more lakes across the state.
Big Bass at Little Lakes
Spending a sunny, clear, windy morning on Fremont Lakes without catching a fish was a blow to the anglers' ego, but when the clouds rolled in these fishermen's wrists soon tired from reeling in bass.
Lake Minatare: A Surprising Discovery
At first, fishing in this wide spot of an old irrigation system doesn't appear promising, but look again. Careful forage fish management and newly constructed reefs - adding structure and habitat - have turned this 2,158-acre reservoir into a promising Panhandle fishery.
Thursdays Are for Trout
For most of their lives, Eloise Johnson and Carmen Frickenstein have fished Verdigre Creek. Now retired, the long-time friends still slip on hip waders, wander downstream and probe their favorite holes for trout.
Midsize Reservoirs: Something for Every Angler
Luckily for anglers, water has a way of piling up behind dams. Fish like it, too. Nebraska has about 70 midsize reservoirs, most in the eastern part of the state, ranging from 15 to 1,800 acres. Today these waters are places to fish, boat and camp, but, when construction started in the 1950s, recreation was not part of the plan. The efforts of Mel Steen, former director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and others changed that and gave anglers plenty of places to fish.
Fishing Against the Grain
Steve Isom of Valentine is not a hard-core maverick, but challenging long-held ice fishing lore has paid off for him.
High Bank Trout
Trout grow fast in the cold, nutrient-rich water flowing from Lake Ogallala into the Sutherland Supply Canal, and anglers fishing from the canal's banks regularly catch healthy, high-quality fish — and sometimes, a memorable trophy.


There is no perfect modern-day comparison to the circumstances spawning the short-lived potash industry in Nebraska during World War I. Still, the history of the potash boom during World War I is uniquely concise. Oddly enough, the long-cursed alkaline wetlands of the western Sandhills became one of the best alternate sources of potash the U.S. had, and by the end of the war the region was meeting about 60 percent of the country’s need.

Millennium's End Quarry
An ancient river that once flowed along what is now the Wildcat Ridge south of Gering is giving up its secrets to paleontologists from the University of Nebraska State Museum. Fossilized bones of 46 species that lived 23 million years ago, including several new species, have been recovered. This fossil deposit is one of North America's most diverse and significant discoveries of early Miocene mammals.

Touring Lewis and Clark
On Nebraska's stretch of the Lewis and Clark Trail, this summer's highlight will be the national signature event July 31 through August 3 at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park and in Omaha commemorating the first council with Native Americans.

100 Years of Game and Parks History
On July 1, 1901, the Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Game and Fish Commission. A look back documents how the steward of the state's wildlife and recreational lands has grown and evolved.

Restoring An Icon
Nebraskans are proud of their state capitol, designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in the 1920s and completed in 1932. After 70 years service, this architectural masterpiece needs repairs.

The History and Art of Shotshells
During the early decades of the 1900s, shotshell boxes were graced with lovely typefaces and delightful artwork of game animals and hunting scenes.

The Federal
Stamp and wildlife art collectors call it "the federal." But through its 71-year history, the U.S. Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp has been better known as "the duck stamp."


"RETURN TO THE PLAINS" Elk Comeback Not Yet Finished

Today, elk are making their way back home. Nebraska, the heart of the historic elk range, now boasts more than 2,000 head, a number that is growing steadily as herds expand within their current range and continue to reclaim former territory. The growth comes a mere 25 years after efforts to eliminate the first wild elk herd in the state’s modern history failed, much to the delight of biologists, hunters and nature lovers.

What follows is a brief history of the elk’s return to the state and what the future might hold for this majestic big game animal.

Before There Were Robo Ducks

November 2010 - Live tame ducks make probably the best decoys to be had for mallard and black-duck shooting, but they are such a nuisance to take care of and transport that they are seldom used in the West. It would almost seem as though they took an especial delight in seeing their kindred killed, from the continuous calling and quacking they keep up whenever a flock of wild ones come in sight; and they seldom call in vain, for on the wild ones hearing them they immediately turn and come in. – American Wild-Fowl Shooting by Joseph W. Long, J.B. Ford And Company, 1874.

Hunting the Home Place
The Colburns ranch has been in the family for more than 100 years, and the opening weekend of the firearm deer season is a family tradition and affair.

Deer 101
Despite what you may have been led to believe, deer hunting with a rifle is not that hard. By following these basic steps there's an excellent chance almost anyone could harvest a deer this year, and there's never been a better time to take up deer hunting in this state.

From the Litter to the Field
Purchasing a puppy is just the start of a new dog owner's commitment. From picking to training, each step must be carefully executed to provide the most reliable companion afield.

Capture the Moment
Planning ahead is the key to better photos of hunter and trophy.

Ducks on the Pond--A Mecca for Waterfowlers
Ever present and accessible, farm ponds are an underutilized resource for today's waterfowlers.

Is Your Dog Nebraska Field Ready?
Don't wait until this fall to start your hunting preparations. In order to make this season a success, follow these simple guidelines to get your dogs ready for the upcoming hunting seasons and to minimize any injuries that might occur in the field.

The Deer of DeSoto
An ongoing study of deer at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge has found that while most whitetails are homebodies, the movement of some have revealed surprises about the population.

Beaver Pond Woodies
"Because of their habits they are not easy ducks to procure with the gun. They are not found frequently on lakes in the daytime, though wild rice will seduce them to the water and keep them there. Generally they are out in the fields or among the nuts, and the hunter who wishes to make a bag of them must find their roosting place." --Sandy Griswold, Omaha World-Herald, June 29, 1919

A Hunter's Bargain
For more than 30 years, the Lions Club in Huntely, Nebraska, population 67, has provided season-long hunting access to tens of thousands of acres of private land in Harlan County for a low, low price.

Ranch-style Duck Hunting
Dave Hintz became John Harm's next door neighbor by chance. It was natural they became hunting and fishing buddies. For almost 10 years they have shared blinds, decoy spreads and blustery mornings when ducks drift south from the Dakotas.

The Rooster's Roller Coaster Ride
Veteran hunters have seen pheasant populations tumble, roar back, decline and recover, but with each cycle the peaks are a little lower and the troughs a little deeper. In Nebraska, the history of the ringneck is the history of agriculture.

Hunting in the Round
Hunters faced with hours of solitude in dark, cramped blinds have devised a host of bizarre inventions to fool ducks and geese, but a few of those ingenious ideas, like the round-bale blind built by four hunters from North Platte, warrant a second look.

Focus on Pheasants
As nearly everyone knows, the current pheasant population in the state is quite low – probably the lowest it has been since its establishment in Nebraska. Everyone is concerned about this unhappy situation – Game Commission, hunter and conservationist alike. Most hunters long for "the good old days" of numerous pheasants when they could go out and fill their bag limit in a short time. No doubt many wonder if pheasant hunting will keep on getting poorer or whether someday it will be better.

Electronic Collars
While an inept or curel trainer can abuse a hunting dog with a shock collar, today's remote training technology offers real advantages when used wisely. It allows a hunter to sensitively and immediately correct behavior at a distance and to control how far a dog ranges.

Low-Tech Waterfowling
Some might think of waterfowl hunting as an expensive game requiring costly guns, dogs, blinds and ecoys. But it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of low-cost ways to put a duck or goose in the game bag.

Canada Geese--From Bust to Boom
Hunting opportunities have grown as succesful restoration has brought Canada geese back from the brink of extinction. But today's larger resident flocks also have created problems, and changes in goose management are coming.

The Way Hunting Was
The calls of live decoys brought waterfowl to hunters in the 1920s and 1930s, but Jodi McNell recalls the formidable challenges outdoorsmen faced in that era.


This Dam House
Sleeping atop a river is not for everyone, but for this family there's no place they'd rather call home.
Three Days on Ice
Last winter, the Niobrara Ice Jam in Valentine gave participants a unique activity to Nebraska residents and visitors -- ice climbing in the Cornhusker state.
Northern Lights on the Plains
Away from its cities, Nebraska has some of the darkest skies in North America. As light pollution increases in populated areas, stargazers visit the Great Plains because its clear, dark skies reveal the Milky Way and other wonders of the night.
Mountain Biking Across Nebraska
The challenge of manuevering over rugged, off-road trails while testing a rider's endurance has made mountain biking an increasingly popular activity.
Fort Atkinson Comes Alive
Re-enactors demonstrating military activities and daily chores bring this old army post back to life on summer and fall weekends. As the Lewis and Clark bicentennial approaches in 2004, living historians will also interpret the Expedition.
Everyone thinks it odd that a 73-year-old grandmother is running a team of dogs in front of a sled...especially in Nebraska.
SANDS--Nature for Everyone
Sportsmen Assisting Nebraska's Disabled Sportsmen teams volunteers with disabled participants seeking time afield.
World Class
Erika Anschutz has been winning archery tournaments since she was seven years old and, at 18, is showing no signs of slowing down. Watch her rise from local Grand Island shooter to member of the U.S. Archery team.
White Out! Timely Tips for Winter Nature Photography
Although winter photography requires an extra level of preparedness, the beauty of the season can make the effort very worthwhile.
Extreme Watersports
Visit many of Nebraska's lakes and you will find extreme sports on exhibit. From all ages and walks of life, they do things that make you say, "You've got to be kidding me."
Camp Clark Raiders--Family-style Muzzleloading
The Camp Clarke Raiders have been rendezvousing twice a year for 30 years, shooting muzzleloaders, throwing tomahawks and just having fun as they remember a time gone by.
Canoeing the North Loup River
Beginning in Burwell's Riverside Park, the North Loup River Canoe Trail features an exciting run of whitewater and later wanders quietly through a fertile valley lined with scenic grasslands and fields.
Three Great Hikes
From the rugged Pine Ridge, through the hand-planted Nebraska National Forest in the Sandhills, to the serene Missouri River bluffs in the southeast, three great hikes highlight the best of Nebraska's scenic outdoors.
The Elusive Morel
Although we lead complex lives, we are still hunters and gatherers at the core, and few quarries are as succulently toothsome as the wild morel mushroom.
New Life for the Mighty Mo
In the name of progress, man spent much of the past century taming the Missouri River. Now, we're having second thoughts.
Outdoor Cooking 101
By planning meals before an outing and mastering a few simple camp cooking techniques, even novices can present tasty, basic outdoor meals to family and friends.


Riding the Ridge
Colorful paint horses and their riders gather each September at Fort Robinson State Park for the American Paint Horse Association's trail rides at the historic frontier fort, cavalry remount station and Olympic equestrian training center.
Memphis Lake--Both Past and Present
Once known for the Armour and Company Icehouse, Memphis Lake SRA is one of Nebraska's best secrets. With activities that include camping, fishing, and hiking, Memphis offers a little something for everyone.
Learning Nature's Lessons
Three Nebraska parks are transforming one of their missions -- to help their visitors learn -- into attractions through naturalist and outdoor education programs.
Sledding at Mahoney State Park
In winter, Mahoney Park's slopes become slick roller coasters, beckoning a colorful carnival of sliders and sledders escaping winter's doldrums.
Where Nebraska Begins -- Indian Cave State Park
Two hundred years ago, bluffs along the Missouri River in southeastern Nebraska were scantily wooded. With the control of wildfires and little logging, woodlands lining these bluffs are now the westernmost edge of the eastern deciduous forest.
Nebraska Show Case: Arbor Lodge
Arbor Lodge, an elegant, 52-room neocolonial mansion, is the centerpiece of Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City. This gleaming white residence of J. Sterling Morton and his wife, Caroline, and its acres of stately oaks, maples, chestnuts and pines stand as monuments to this notable Nebraskan and his love for trees ...
Fort Atkinson Comes Alive
Re-enactors demonstrating military activities and daily chores bring this old army post back to life on summer and fall weekends. As the Lewis and Clark bicentennial approaches in 2004, living historians will also interpret the Expedition.


Avoiding Car-Deer Collisions
Defensive driving, seasonal awareness and liberal deer harvest reduce wrecks.

A Sandhills Branding
Unless you live on a ranch, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen a cattle branding. Until a few years ago, such was the case with me, with my only reference to the tradition coming from watching cowboy westerns as a kid. Then I was actually invited to a couple.

From Blossoms to Jelly Jar
Wild plums can be enjoyed in the dead of winter with a little late-summer work.

How to Find Birds
While luck always plays a role in finding birds, it is experience and technique that guides expert birders to their quarry. Equally important is the amount of time spent searching. Birds are not found by sitting on a sofa reading the Sunday newspaper.

Making a Bucket Warmer
Instructions for making a cheap, reliable, candle-powered hot seat that will double as a gear carrier for hunting from a ground blind for ice fishing.

Nestbox Plans

Watching a family of birds grow to maturity is a backyard pleasure sometimes overlooked. These "one-board" and "two-board" birdhouse plans can help you become the landlord for a variety of feathered tenants.


Buff-breasted Sandpipers--Shorebirds of the Uplands
Infrequently seen because they are rarely found near water, these unusual shorebirds stop in the Rainwater Basin each spring.
Volunteers invade central Nebraska's Rowe Sanctuary every spring.
Ospreys in Nebraska
Once a rare sight here, migrant ospreys are now common and one pair has built a nest in Nebraska.
Spring with the Foxes
A photographer shares his experience after photographing six young fox pups last spring.
Watching Bald Eagles
Our nation's symbol can be viewed year-round across the state.
Cliff Hollestelle--Sculptor of Wildlife
From boyhood soap-bar carvings of birds, Hollestelle's art matured to highly-detailed, animated wood birds in realistic postures and classic bronze sculpture.
Peregrines--Falcons at the Capitol
The peregrine started calling as soon as John Dinan peeked around the side of the building. Glaring threateningly at us from the nest box, her raucous screams put the male in defense mode and soon both were airborne, making sweeping dives at us as we inched closer to the nest box on the 18th floor of the state capitol building.
Nebraska's Natural Legacy Plan
Last September a coalition of agricultural and sportsmen groups, conservation agencies and members of the general public completed a plan that is intended to serve as a blueprint for conserving Nebraska's full array of biodiversity by reversing the decline of rare species and ensuring common species stay common.
Nebraska's Bald Eagles
Once persecuted to dangerously low population levels, protection and attitude changes have allowed our nation's symbol to make a remarkable recovery.
Watching Sandhill Cranes
For many bird enthusiasts, it's not spring until they visit the Platte River to see thousands of migrating cranes. Here's a how-to guide for enjoying this annual wildlife spectacle.
Restoring Nebraska Wetlands
During the past 10 years, 45,000 acres of Nebraska wetlands and related uplands have been returned to their natural state. With increased federal funding, conservationists hope to double the number of restored wetland acres by 2007.

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