Mormon Island State Recreation Area
Named for the winter stopover used by Mormon emigrants heading westward, Mormon Island State Recreation Area still offers comfort and conveniences to campers and other travelers on Interstate 80, as part of Nebraska's unique "Chain of Lakes."
With development of I-80 in the early 1960s, then Game and Parks Commission Director Mel Steen saw the potential to create recreation and beauty out of the "borrow pits" left as fill material was removed for construction. These pits would quickly fill with water because of the high water table in the Platte Valley. Why not use this "Chain of Lakes" to beautify the roadway and at the same time create some model recreation areas, Steen reasoned.
The first of these areas developed was Mormon Island. This area and companion Windmill SRA near Gibbon are the most intensely developed, because of their ready access to travelers. Similar less developed areas also serve campers and picnickers, while many less accessible sites are set aside as state wildlife areas for fishermen and hunters.
Stretching for 160 miles between Grand Island and Hershey, these little lakes range from 6 acres to Mormon Island's 46 acres ... the fulfillment of a vision brought to reality.
Mormon Island SRA hosts a spectacular gathering each spring, as hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes stop to rest and pursue their courtship rituals. The world's largest concentration of these magnificent birds draws thousands of visitors to the region every year. Mormon Island lies on the eastern edge of this spring migration route.
Arriving in early to mid-February, the numbers peak about mid to late March. The cranes spend their days feeding and engaging in colorful courtship dances. After the first of April, the birds start flying to northern breeding grounds and are usually gone by mid-April.
A variety of geese, ducks and other waterfowl also come to the area before heading farther north. Ask park personnel for more information about the best times and locations to view these impressive wildlife displays.
Fishing, non-powered boating and boats with electric motors are permitted on the lake. Fish species available include: Largemouth bass, walleye, channel catfish and bluegill. Of course, anglers must have a fishing permit, available at the office.
There are picnic facilities, a shelter house and restrooms. Swimming is allowed only at the marked swimming beach. Change houses are provided.
Mormon Island SRA offers modern camping facilities, restrooms, electrical hookups, a shower building and a laundromat. A trailer dump station and abundant picnic tables and firegrates are also available.
All campers must register. Reservations are accepted. Reservations are taken for 50% of the modern camping. Reservations are taken up to 1 year in advance of arrival day.