Nebraska wildlife, recreation areas will open to camping Friday

Nebraska News
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Chat Canyon WMA, Cherry County, acquired in 2013 and opened in 2014 in cooperation with Nebraska Forest Service as the state’s first Forestry and Wildlife Management Area. NFS will use the area to demonstrate forest management practices. US Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, Nebraska Environmental Trust and National Wild Turkey Federation also partners. Fowler, Sept. […]

LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will open first-come, first-served camping on Friday at Smith Falls State Park for all camping units, including tents. 35 state recreation areas and wildlife management areas will also be included in the opening.

Game and Parks says the decision is prompted by overwhelming demand for camping opportunities, challenges in bringing additional park locations and campsites into the reservation system as planned, and public comments regarding the desire to camp even without normal facilities, which will remain closed.

Those closed facilities include shower houses, designated swimming beaches, playgrounds, and park activities. The commission says a limited number of primitive restrooms will be available.

Park regulations allow for up to eight people per campsite.

The 35 state recreation areas that will open Friday include:

  • Alexandria,
  • Bluestem,
  • Box Butte,
  • Bridgeport,
  • Buffalo Bill,
  • Cheyenne,
  • Conestoga,
  • Cottonwood Lake,
  • Dead Timber,
  • Enders,
  • Gallagher Canyon,
  • Keller Park,
  • Lake Maloney,
  • Long Pine,
  • Memphis,
  • North Loup,
  • Olive Creek,
  • Pelican Point,
  • Red Willow,
  • Riverview Marina,
  • Rock Creek Lake,
  • Rockford,
  • Sandy Channel,
  • Sherman,
  • Stagecoach,
  • Summit,
  • Sutherland,
  • Swanson,
  • Union Pacific,
  • Verdon,
  • Wagon Train,
  • Walgren Lake,
  • War Axe, and 
  • Wildcat Hills.

Mormon Island State Recreation Area near Grand Island and Danish Alps SRA near Hubbard will not offer camping, as they are near communities that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

Game and Parks will also open camping on wildlife management areas where it was previously allowed before the COVID-19 health emergency to help distribute camping activity.

Previously, only limited RV camping was available, by reservation only, in line with health directives to limit crows size and protect the public. Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas said that more opportunities are being offered on smaller park areas that attract fewer people.

Busier areas will retain RV camping by reservation for the time being and include Branched Oak Lake, Medicine Creek Reservoir and Lake McConaughy.

“As we continue to be able to add needed seasonal personnel and provide for facility maintenance, we will expand further opportunities while managing within the constraints of the ongoing health emergency,” Douglas said.

The prevailing health recommendations for social distancing and groups of less than 10 as per state Directed Health Measures still apply. Game and Parks says and it’s incumbent upon park visitors to be responsible for their own actions to protect their health, the health of their community and that of other park users.

For the park locations in the online reservation system, camping will continue to be limited to advanced reservation at, and only for self-contained recreational vehicles.

No first-come, first-served camping is allowed at the following locations, and no tents will be allowed at this time, but expanded camping may be allowed in the near future. Those areas are:

  • Branched Oak,
  • Calamus,
  • Chadron,
  • Eugene T. Mahoney,
  • Fort Kearney,
  • Fort Robinson,
  • Fremont,
  • Indian Cave,
  • Johnson Lake,
  • Lake McConaughy,
  • Lake Minatare,
  • Lake Ogallala,
  • Lewis and Clark,
  • Louisville,
  • Medicine Creek Reservoir,
  • Merritt Reservoir,
  • Niobrara,
  • Pawnee,
  • Platte River,
  • Ponca,
  • Rock Creek Station,
  • Two Rivers,
  • Victoria Springs,
  • Willow Creek, and 
  • Windmill state recreation areas, state parks and state historical parks.

Game and Parks says it will cautiously phase in additional park services and amenities in consort with health directives and advice from health departments.

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