Fun on the water surely awaits those who are within sight of Nebraska’s only full-size lighthouse at Lake Minatare State Recreation Area. At 2,158 acres, Lake Minatare is the Panhandle’s largest body of water, attracting thousands of anglers, campers, water skiers and swimmers each year. As part of the North Platte Wildlife Refuge, the lake also is a haven for waterfowl and other fauna. Yielding to migratory birds and other wildlife, the lake is closed to public use from Oct. 15 through Jan. 15 each year. Easily accessible by paved road from U.S. Highway 26 or Nebraska Highway 71, Lake Minatare is six miles east and eight miles north of Scottsbluff in the North Platte River Valley.
Lake Minatare is a destination from early spring when anglers fish among its flooded cottonwoods to late summer when lower water brings access to sandy beaches. The lake is known for its population of walleyes and big channel catfish, and is one of the only places in the Panhandle to catch a smallmouth bass. Other popular game fish are crappie, blue catfish, white bass, wipers, northern pike and yellow perch. Many anglers find success on the ice after the lake reopens in January. Fish cleaning stations are located at the Lake View Point, West Wind, and Butte View areas.
For more information on fishing opportunities here and at parks across the state, visit the interactive public fishing areas map. This map provides detailed information on available species, regulations, public boat ramps, fish cleaning stations and ADA-accessible boat ramps and docks, among other features in reservoirs, lakes, streams and rivers statewide. Lake contour maps are available for some lakes, as well.
With seven shelters and dozens of picnic tables and fire grates, Lake Minatare is a popular place for families and groups to dine outdoors.
Boaters will find three ramps conveniently located at points around the lake, which has plenty of room for power boating, water skiing and sailing. To accommodate the various activities, however, special boating regulations apply at the public dock sites.
Swimming and other fun in the water is permitted in designated areas, including the excellent beach east of the dam. The waters are unsupervised and swimmers are encouraged to use caution and observe signs. Personal flotation devices, such as vests and belts that are worn, are allowed and encouraged. Items such as floating loungers are prohibited.
Lake Minatare’s landmark lighthouse was a beacon of hope during the dark days of the Great Depression, when many Americans were jobless. It was built entirely of native stone between 1937 and 1939 by the Veterans Conservation Corps Camp BR-1. The structure stands 55 feet tall and was intended to serve as a combination shelter house and observation tower. Many decades later, it still stands watch over the area. Open to the public, the historic tower continues to offer a spectacular view of the lake and picturesque river valley.
The modern Lakeview Point Campground, located near the iconic lighthouse, has 52 asphalt pads with 20- and 30-amp electrical hookups, modern restrooms and showers. Half of those sites may be reserved up to one year in advance. In addition, Butte View Campground has 49 sites with 50-amp electricity available on a first-come, first-served basis. The area also offers more than 150 undesignated primitive sites spread among those locations and other points around the lake, including the West Wind, Scout’s Rest, Butte View and South Gate areas.
A park entry permit is required and may be purchased at the park, statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors or in advance of your arrival online.
Residents $30 for an annual permit, duplicate annual permits are available for $15 and daily permits for $6.
For vehicles not registered and licensed in Nebraska $45 for an annual permit, duplicate annuals permits are available for $22.50 and daily permits for $8.
Primitive tent camping – $8
Camping no camp pad, non-electric – $8
Camp pad with electric – $20
Winter camping rate with electric – $12
Reserve a Picnic Shelter: $45 per day, no electric
For a complete list of all state park, state recreation area and state historical park fees, click here.
Lake Minatare is just minutes from the Scotts Bluff National Monument, Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Bridgeport State Recreation Area and many other natural wonders and public lands of the Wildcat Hills and North Platte Valley.
Central to these attractions is the Scottsbluff-Gering area, providing big-city amenities to the scenic region.
Just south of Gering is the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Nature Center, another popular attraction for park-goers.
Address: Lake Minatare SRA | PO Box 188 | Minatare, NE 69356-0188
Email: Send email