Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala state recreation areas are two of Nebraska’s most popular tourist attractions. Visitors come from across Nebraska and beyond to boat, fish, swim and camp, among other outdoor pursuits.
Additionally, these lakes are a haven for wildlife. Two threatened and endangered species nest at the lakes — the interior least tern and the piping plover — and many other species use the lakes and the surrounding land, as well.
The lakes are owned by the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District. Recreation on the lakes is managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission through a lease with CNPPID. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works in partnership with Game and Parks and CNPPID to make sure that the threatened and endangered species that use the lake are conserved.
In 2015, the Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners directed staff to complete a master plan for the lakes. Game and Parks staff created a local advisory group, worked with partner organizations and sought public input through several meetings, as well as phone calls and emails and discussions. Through this process, a draft master plan was developed. This plan identifies 10 major goals for the lakes:
- Provide memorable experiences for users through a diverse set of recreational opportunities.
- Increase visitation during the shoulder seasons.
- Explore partnerships to positively affect the surrounding areas’ economies.
- Manage and expand recreational opportunities to avoid user conflicts and protect natural resources.
- Protect and effectively manage the natural resources of the lakes, with a focus on the threatened and endangered species on the lakes.
- Ensure public safety in a fair and effective manner.
- Manage the area in accordance with the agreement between Nebraska Game and Parks and CNPPID.
- Offer quality cultural and natural resources education and interpretation.
- Provide effective and efficient operation of the area.
- Increase revenue generation.
The Board of Commissioners approved the Lake McConaughy/Lake Ogallala Master Plan 2016 in October of 2016. Since its implementation in 2017, Nebraska Game and Parks has invested over $4 million dollars in repairs and improvements and with the support of state and local stakeholders, including the Lake McConaughy Advisory Group and the general public, will continue to invest in the areas to improve the quality of park experience for all.