Outdoor notes: Practice responsible recreation on waterways
While you enjoy the great outdoors floating, take precautions to avoid trespassing. The land beneath Nebraska’s rivers and streams is considered private property. Trespassing onto private land is disrespectful to landowners and can result in a citation.
You may float through private property but exiting your craft or anchoring upon private property requires a landowner’s permission. The exception is that you are able to access private property to portage or transport your canoe, kayak or inner-tube around any fence or obstruction in the river or stream.
Permission also is required when riverbeds are dry, so gain permission before walking or driving in one, even if you entered from a public-use area; property boundaries can be difficult to determine.
Follow all posted signs. Wear a life jacket. Do not litter and take care to not disturb fish and wildlife in and around the river. Fish and wildlife depend on the river ecosystem.
Help document urban wildlife by participating in City Nature Challenge
Nebraskans of all ages are invited to participate in the City Nature Challenge, a global event to find and document urban wildlife.
The challenge, which is April 28 to May 7, is a chance to look for nature in urban areas and learn about the animal and plant life discovered there.
Using the free iNaturalist app, participants will photograph wildlife and upload their observations to the app between April 28-May 1. They’ll then help identify observations between May 2-7.
Wildlife can be any wild plant, animal, fish, fungi or any other evidence of life, such as scat, fur or tracks. Participants can even document species through their windows.
Though anyone may participate in the CNC global project, Nebraska is hosting the challenge from five urban locations across the state. Search iNaturalist for the following project near you to participate:
- City Nature Challenge 2023: Lincoln-Lancaster County
- City Nature Challenge 2023: Norfolk-Madison County Nebraska
- City Nature Challenge 2023: North Platte, Nebraska
- City Nature Challenge 2023: Omaha Metro
- City Nature Challenge 2023: Scotts Bluff County
- City Nature Challenge 2023: Global Project
People can explore alone or participate in local events. They are:
- City Nature Challenge Festival, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Mountain Time, Legion Park, Gering
- CNC across LNK, 9 a.m. to noon, various locations in Lincoln
- City Nature Challenge: Explore Skyview Lake, 2 to 3:30 p.m., Norfolk
- City Nature Challenge Walk at Heron Haven, 9:30 a.m. to noon, Omaha
- Wilderness Park BioBlitz, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Lincoln
- City Nature Challenge at Verges Park, 2 to 5 p.m., Norfolk
- City Nature Challenge at Fontenelle Forest, 1 to 4 p.m., Bellevue
Visit Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov for more details about these events. Participants also can register there for the following free virtual events:
- Introduction to the City Nature Challenge, 7 p.m. April 25
- CNC ID Party: Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians & Fish, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., May 2
- CNC ID Party: Plants & Fungi, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., May 3
- CNC ID Party: Insects, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., May 4
- CNC ID Party: Birds, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., May 5
The City Nature Challenge, launched in 2016 as a competition between two U.S. cities, now is an international competition to document nature and better understand urban biodiversity. In 2022, more than 67,000 participants made nearly 1.7 million observations of more than 50,000 species globally.
Learn more about the City Nature Challenge at OutdoorNebraska.gov.
Rock Creek Station state parks reopen
Rock Creek Station State Historical Park and the adjacent state recreation area near Fairbury have reopened to the public after a wildfire burned 1,800 acres of land.
The historical park sustained significant damage after the wildfire, though the reconstructed historical buildings narrowly were saved from the flames.
No damage occurred at the state recreation area, which offers camping and other recreation, including trails.
Those wishing to ride or hike back country trails at the two parks first should check with the park office about access. Some trails were heavily damaged and may not be passable. Contact the park at 402-729-5777 or [email protected].
Learn more about Rock Creek Station State Historical Park and Rock Creek Station State Recreation Area at OutdoorNebraska.gov.
Indian Cave State Park to host Outdoor Adventure on April 22
Enjoy a day of fun, food and fungi April 22 at the 12th Annual Outdoor Adventure at Indian Cave State Park.
The day’s activities include a mushroom hunting contest, Morel Mile run and 5k race, archery, Dutch oven cooking, kid’s horse rides, hayrack rides, kayaking and a fish fry will be served for lunch. There will be a raptor program at 1 p.m.
See the calendar entry at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov for more information.
A park entry permit is required.
Catch these education events in May
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission educators have scheduled interesting and engaging events for the curious in May. Here are some opportunities:
Little Saplings program presents Wiggling Worms
Adults looking to explore the outdoors with their young children are invited to Little Saplings, a monthly early childhood nature discovery program at Schramm Education Center near Gretna.
The 2023 series continues May 3 with the theme Wiggling Worms at 9 a.m. It is designed for children ages 2-5 and their adult caregiver. The cost is $4 per child and $5 per adult per program and includes admission to the Education Center after the program.
See the calendar event entry at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov for more information.
Homeschool Hike set for May 17-18 at Schramm Park SRA
Homeschool families are invited to join an outdoor educator on a guided hike to learn about wetlands at Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna during the Homeschool Hikes program at 9 a.m. May 17 and 2 p.m. May 18.
Homeschool Hikes is a monthly nature exploration program hosted by the Schramm Education Center geared toward homeschool families.
Participants are encouraged to RSVP in advance through the event listing at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov. Cost is $4 per child and $5 per adult per program. This includes admission to the Schramm Education Center after the program. Schramm Family Pass members participate free.
This program is recommended for ages 5 and up. Participants should dress in season-appropriate layers and wear closed-toed shoes that can get dirty. Hats and water bottles are recommended.
Indigenous Worldviews and Relationships with the Natural World is topic of webinar
Join the free virtual webinar Indigenous Worldviews and Relationships with the Natural World at 12:30 p.m. Central time May 10.
Hear Ted Hibbler, UNL Extension Educator and Indigenous Educator, discuss the perspectives of Indigenous worldviews regarding our relationship with the Earth, plants, water, and the natural world. Hibbler, a Sicangu Lakota from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, has been an Indigenous educator for the past 45 years.
This webinar is part of the Conservation Education Lunch and Learn Series, which dives into the science behind educational efforts and practices by learning from experts on a variety of science and educational topics. Direct questions to [email protected].
Visit the event listing at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov to register and get more information.
Wise & Wild program for seniors who love outdoors
Wise & Wild is a program designed for seniors age 55 and up who love the outdoors and want to enjoy time in the parks. A different hour-long nature-related program is held each Thursday at 1 p.m. in a Venture Park.
The schedule for May is: May 4 – Nature journaling, Schramm Education Center; May 11 – Birding for Seniors, Platte River State Park; May 18 – Nature photography, Schramm Education Center.
Four Nebraska Nature Nerd Trivia Nights scheduled for May 24
Grab your fellow nature nerds and join the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as it hosts four Nebraska Nature Nerd Trivia Nights across the state May 24.
Nature is cool, so there is no shortage of topics questions could cover. Get your teams of no more than five players and be ready to compete for prizes. Registration is not required.
These events are for adults only and are free to attend with a purchase from the host brewery.
The Nebraska Nature Nerd Trivia Nights, which begin at 7 p.m. local time, are at:
- Scottsbluff – Flyover Brewing Company, 1824 Broadway
- Lincoln – Cosmic Eye Brewing, 6800 P St., Ste. 300
- Norfolk – District Table & Tap, 226 W. Norfolk Ave.
- North Platte – Pals Brewing Company, 4520 S. Buffalo Bill Ave.
For more information and or questions, email [email protected].
May is Bird Month in Nebraska
Each year, May is Bird Month in Nebraska. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and partner organizations celebrate with a variety of activities across the state throughout the month. More information can be found at nebraskabirdmonth.org. Here are some opportunities:
Southeast District Birding Day Set for May 11
Birders of all ages are invited to join the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for Southeast District Birding Day on May 11 at Table Rock Wildlife Management Area in Pawnee County.
Meet at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot at the southeast side of the WMA, along Highway 4. Birders will divide into groups and hike different areas, looking for woodland, grassland and other bird species.
At 11 a.m., birders will meet at Kirkman’s Cove Recreation Area, 3 miles to the east, where a Nemaha Natural Resources District park pass will be required and available, for lunch and speakers.
Participants should bring lunch, binoculars, cameras, field guides, insect repellant, bag chair as well as appropriate clothing and footwear for steep terrain.
RSVP by May 9 at the event listing on the calendar at OutdoorNebraska.gov.
Birding at Lake Mac is May 13
Learn about common birds at Lake McConaughy during Birding at Lake Mac on May 13.
Participants also will have the opportunity to make pine-cone bird feeders and enjoy a short bird outing at this free event, which begins at 10 a.m. at the visitor center.
Binoculars and bird ID books will be provided, and participants will receive Nebraska Bird Month swag.
For more information, contact [email protected].
Platte River SP, Schramm to host Birding Basics Chat
Come to Platte River State Park on May 6 or Schramm Education Center on May 7 for a Birding Basics Chat.
Learn what it takes to be a birder and ways to identify birds. Explore resources you may want to have in your birder backpack.
At Platte River SP, meet at the Nature Center below Mallet Lodge for this free program, which starts at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. At Schramm, meet in the lobby of the education center at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Ponca State Park hosting Migratory Bird Day
Join fellow birders at Ponca State Park on May 13 for Migratory Bird Day.
The park attracts amateur and experienced bird watchers. Nearly 300 bird species have been reported in the area; warblers, scarlet tanagers, northern orioles, red-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings and ruby-throated hummingbirds are just a few of the highlights.
Join park staff between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for a full day of birding activities. Make a bird feeder, watch for birds, and learn the history of migration along the Missouri River.
Call the park office 402-755-2284 or check Facebook: Ponca State Park NE for details and a list of program times.
Make a Recycled Bird Feeder at Mahoney State Park
Come to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park on May 13 and make a recycled bird feeder.
Learn about different kinds of bird seeds and feeders, then create one using recycled materials. Guests are encouraged to bring a few items to recycle such as an empty soup can or plastic bottle. Other materials will be provided.
Meet at 10 a.m. at the picnic tables in the grassy area in front of Owen Marina.
Visit Indian Cave SP for Migratory Bird Day
Indian Cave State Park will host a variety of family-friendly activities during the Ninth Annual Migratory Bird Day on May 27.
Fun, hands-on bird crafts and games for all ages will take place from 4-6 p.m., followed by a fish fry from 6-7 p.m. and a glow-in-the-dark egg hunt at 9 p.m. See the calendar event entry at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov for more information.
A park entry permit is required.
Glow-in-the-Dark Egg Hunt on tap at Lewis and Clark SRA
Bring the children to Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area on May 27 for a Glow-in-the-Dark Egg Hunt.
This event, which starts at 9:30 p.m., will help celebrate Migratory Bird Weekend. Eggs will have treats in them; some also will have bird trivia to win fun prizes.
A park entry permit is required.
2023 big game hunting recommendations approved
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved recommendations for 2023 deer, antelope and elk hunting seasons at its meeting April 19 in Fremont.
Commissioners approved staff recommendations that will help the agency manage big game populations at socially acceptable levels.
Adopted changes to Commission orders pertaining to big game hunting include:
- removing 70 either-sex and 282 doe/fawn antelope permits,
- including archery season on all Mule Deer Conservation Area permits, making them valid for all open seasons,
- prohibiting antlerless mule deer harvest statewide on all lands open to public hunting, except land in the Open Fields and Water Program,
- reducing the nonresident either-sex and buck only deer permit quota to 10,000, excluding landowner and youth permits,
- reducing the nonresident archery deer permit quota to 3,000 and make it not valid for mule deer in the MDCA,
- reducing the nonresident muzzleloader deer permit quota to 1,000,
- creating a new Plains Whitetail firearm deer permit,
- reducing available November Firearm permits by 5.9% and Antlerless Only Season Choice permits by 7.4%,
- setting the nonresident quota at 15% for the Calamus West, Plains, Sandhills and Upper Platte November Firearm and the Frenchman MDCA permits,
- restructuring of the elk management units,
- adding 39 bull elk permits and 214 antlerless elk permits,
- minor adjustments on other deer, elk and antelope permits to meet management objectives.
The approved 2023 big game season dates are:
Archery – Sept. 1-Dec. 31; November Firearm – Nov. 11-19; Muzzleloader – Dec. 1-31; Late Antlerless Only Firearm – Jan. 1-15, 2024; October River Antlerless Firearm – Oct. 1-15; River Antlerless Late Firearm – Jan. 1-31, 2024; Antlerless Only Season Choice – Sept. 1-Jan. 15, 2024; Youth – Sept. 1-Jan. 15, 2024; Limited Landowner – Sept. 1-Jan. 15, 2024; Special Landowner – Nov. 4-6
Archery – Aug. 20-Dec. 31; Muzzleloader – Sept. 16-Oct. 1; Firearm – Oct. 14-29; Late doe/fawn – Nov. 1-Jan. 31, 2024
Archery bull – Sept. 1-Oct. 31; Firearm bull – Sept. 21-Oct. 31; Antlerless – Aug. 1-Jan. 31, 2024; Antlerless, Private Land Only – Aug. 1-Sept. 20; Early General Antlerless – Aug. 1-Oct. 31; Late General Antlerless – Nov. 1-Jan. 31, 2024
The commissioners also approved a Board Resolution to apply for Transportation Alternatives Program grant funding through the Nebraska Department of Transportation to surface with limestone 24.6 miles of Cowboy Trail from Rushville west to mile marker 400.
In other business, commissioners approved permanent and temporary easement requests from NDOT for work on Nebraska Highway 7 in Ainsworth and the temporary diversion of the Cowboy Trail there.
Also, commissioners approved a staff recommendation to designate Phillips Canyon and Midway Lake, both located near Johnson Lake State Recreation Area in Dawson County, as state recreation areas. A new access to Phillips Canyon Lake on the north side of the canal, just off Hwy. 283, is being developed by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and the Game and Parks. Construction should be completed late this spring. Designation of Midway Lake access will allow for improvements of existing ramp, dock and parking area. Both Supply Canal access points will be managed by the Parks Division through a lease agreement with CNPPID. Both areas will provide critical public boat access for fishing and waterfowl hunting.
There also was a review of the 2022-2023 river otter season. The season, which ran from Nov. 1 until the end of February, saw 53 otters harvested. In the first two seasons since the otter was delisted, 131 have been trapped.
Also, commissioners were given an overview of projects, updates and activities in Northeast Region by regional staff.
They also learned about the GoOutdoorsNE mobile app, which allows customers to access their account, view privileges, friends and family, hunter education, landowner information, cancel electronic turkey permits and report turkey harvest.
Youth fishing instructor training coming to Panhandle
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission plans to certify youth fishing instructors at two Panhandle locations in early May.
The workshops, which were just added to a list of sites previously publicized, will be in the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center at Alliance on May 2 and the Group Event Complex at Chadron State Park on May 3. Each is set for 6-9 p.m.
Instructors are part of the Youth Fishing Program, a statewide team of volunteers and Game and Parks staff who host educational fishing events.
Workshop participants will receive training and tools to conduct youth fishing clinics. The volunteers will have access to Game and Parks’ loaner fishing equipment and educational materials for events. They also will receive program incentives. Instructors are encouraged to volunteer for such Game and Parks programs as Community Fishing Nights and the Outdoor Expos.
Registration is required. Sign up by visiting the respective event listing at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov.
Contact Larry Pape, Game and Parks outdoor education specialist, at [email protected] for information.
Merritt Reservoir night programs begin April 29
Nebraska’s best-known destination for stargazing is the location of an upcoming educational series to celebrate the night sky, a combined effort of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and National Park Service.
On Saturday, April 29, a National Park Service ranger will lead “Journey Through the Night Sky” — the first of four dark sky programs planned at Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area between now and fall.
At the first event, attendees will use telescopes and learn about importance of dark skies and problems posed by light pollution. The program, which appropriately occurs during Global Astronomy Month, will begin at 8 p.m. at the Snake River Area.
Other programs in the series:
- “Magnificent Moths, Spectacular Starts,” June 24, Cedar Bay Campground, 9 p.m.-midnight. Use lighting to observe nighttime insects.
- “Constellations on the Landscape: Wildlife Need Dark Skies, Too,” Snake River Campground, July 21, 8-8:30 p.m. Learn how dark sky preservation relates to wildlife conservation. In conjunction with annual Nebraska Star Party.
- “Creatures of the Night: Bats,” Snake River Area, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m. Learn about the bats of Merritt Reservoir SRA.
In 2022, Merritt Reservoir earned became an International Dark Sky Park, a title presented by the International Dark-Sky Association. Merritt is the first location in Nebraska to make the list, which includes some of America’s most breathtaking national and state parks. Merritt Reservoir is located 26 miles southwest of Valentine.
Contact Amanda Filipi, Game and Parks outdoor education specialist, at amanda.fili[email protected] for more information about the series of events.