To hunt mushrooms in Nebraska is to hunt morels. Emerging for a few weeks each spring, these mushrooms are prized for their rich flavor. With their honeycombed cone-shaped cap, they’re also relatively easy to find and identify — if you know where and when to look. Read on for tips on identifying and finding morels, as well as for weekly reports on where mushroom hunters are finding morels in Nebraska, and where they’re not. Happy hunting!
Morel hunting tips
The emergence of morel mushrooms varies from year to year with the advance of spring weather, soil temperature and moisture. According to most mycologists, ground temperature for morels to push through the soil typically needs to be fifty degrees at four to six inches inches below the surface. This generally occurs in mid- to –late, April, though morels have arrived both earlier and later. Many hunters heed old-time advice and head to the woods when the lilacs bloom.
Morels ordinarily appear for a two to three week period, if not a bit longer, depending on conditions. Individually, a morel mushroom emerges, grows, and dries within about four to six days.
Along the Missouri River, avid morel mushroom hunters key into jack-in-the-pulpits, May-apples, ferns and phlox. Morel mushrooms are often found amid these plants in the same combination of soil, moisture, slope and sunlight preferred by the mushrooms.
To scout for early season morels, a seeker of the treasured fungi needs to check the south-facing slopes of woodlands with loose soils and high humidity where sunlight can penetrate to the ground near decaying organic matter (vegetation). Search an area until you find one or two, then slow down and more carefully scour the area. Always get permission before hunting morels on private land.
Hobby picking (non-commercial harvesting) for morel mushrooms is allowed on Nebraska Game and Parks Commission owned and controlled properties, unless signed otherwise. A current, valid state park entry permit is required on motor vehicles entering lands in the Nebraska state park system. Be aware that spring wild turkey hunters may be on state wildlife management areas and please steer clear of their blinds and decoys.
Morels are commonly found near rivers, so it’s no surprise that the following river-adjacent state parks and recreation areas are excellent locations to find morels:
- Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
- Indian Cave State Park
- Louisville State Recreation Area
- Platte River State Park
- Schramm Park State Recreation Area
- Two Rivers State Recreation Area
However, rivers aren’t the only locations where morels can be abundant. Old-growth forest and creek edges also present good morel opportunity. Those features can be found in the following public spots:
- Branched Oak State Recreation Area
- Burchard Wildlife Management Area
- Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area
- Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area
- Twin Lakes Wildlife Management Area
- Yellow Banks Wildlife Management Area
This list should get you started. To find other public land that might yield morels, view the Public Access Atlas.
Weekly morel reports
The following updates are from Nebraska Game and Parks conservation officers and other staff from across the state. Reports will be posted each week.
Editor’s note: With morel season winding down across the state, this week’s report will be the last of 2016.
Mushrooming is winding down. We finally got some warm weather, but a little too much rain is making the quality suffer. The weeds coming on strong is hurting the search also. Mushroom hunters are finding some away from the river valleys, along some of the creeks like the Logan and the Maple which both have huge drainages in Dodge and Colfax counties. Some success along the rivers but not like normal or like it should be, so all in all kind of an off year.
Grand Island area
Finding mushrooms along both the North and South Platte rivers.
It has been a cold and wet week, and the mushroom hunting has not taken off like it should this time of year. We are still receiving reports of some being found along the Platte and Elkhorn rivers, but not in big numbers.
With the rainy days last week, there was not much activity. Once the rains subsided, hunters were out on the river finding some on islands. This week, I suspect will be good with Mother’s Day traditionally being the peak of the hunting season.
Hunters are reporting finding larger ones and thinking the season is coming to an end.
Nebraska City area
This last week people have been finding mushrooms, and success has been good. They are finding most of them in the hills, as well as along Missouri River bottom. I checked some boats coming into the Marina at Nebraska City and they were having fair success.
Still not many mushrooms on the Blue River, or in Gage and Saline counties. Maybe this week now that it has started to heat up. Most hunters are going to the Platte and Missouri Rivers.
North Platte area
No luck on mushrooms in my area. There were a few hunters at Clear Creek WMA and the west end of Lake Mac. (Note: We received confirmation of morels around North Platte last week; see the April 21 report).
Mushroom gatherers report season possibly getting to the end as they are finding the larger size mushroom along the Platte River in Douglas County. Good reports of mushrooms at NP Dodge Park near the Missouri River but also reports that mushroom gatherers traveling outside of the city park into private property without permission.
Note to mushroom hunters: Always ask permission before looking for mushrooms on private land. Law enforcement has received many complaints from landowners about trespassers along the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers. One trespasser, who was dressed in camouflage clothing to avoid detection, received a citation for second-degree criminal trespass.
Grand Island area
Checked several people with morel mushrooms this weekend, most all public area’s along the Platte and Loup rivers that I checked had people looking for morels.
Mushroom hunters are out in full force. With the latest moisture, morels are popping up. Majority of hunters have been finding maybe a pound cache.
Mushrooms are popping up quite a bit more this past week with the rain and warmer temps. People report finding more, still mostly small, in the Platte and Elkhorn River valleys and on islands. Still not much along tributary creeks and upland timber. Some hail on Sunday slowed things down in the Fremont area.
And we have morels in the North Platte area, which Nebraska Game and Parks Public Information Office Julie Geiser wrote about on her blog. In the post, she also discusses how to distinguish false morels from the real thing and offers several suggestions on how to prepare them.
No mushrooms in my area. I friend of mine in Grand Island found a few near Clarks along the Platte River this week.
Grand Island Area
Talked with a few morel mushroom hunters this week, saw some morels in the bag. I believe they’re just starting to go along the Platte River.
Mushrooms are starting. Some people are finding limited numbers in my area, mainly along the Platte River, and to a somewhat lesser degree along the Elkhorn River. So far, they’re finding mostly smaller ones so far and many of the grayer color. Platte River islands are good also but permission needs to be granted; they are not “no-mans land.” With this rain, conditions will improve, especially when the sun comes out.
North Platte Area
No mushrooms. No news.
I didn’t get to spend too much time looking for morels, except for a bit Sunday when we found 19 of them, ranging from 2 to 5 inches tall, in about 2 hours near dead cottonwood tree trunks along the Missouri River just north of Omaha near Fort Calhoun.
I think with our soil temperature which is above 50 degrees, 4 to 6 inches below the surface of the ground, and Monday’s precipitation (with more rain in the forecast) plus a warm weekend, the morels should pop like crazy!
Spoke with several mushroom hunters in North Cedar County with no success due to very dry soil conditions. With the overnight rain and up to an inch overall predicted, this week should put all the right conditions in play to make for good success.
Have not seen any morels, conditions need to improve, and we need rain and some warm nights. Word on the street is that we’re getting a few near the Missouri river on the south slopes.
Grand Island area
Did not talk to any mushroom pickers over the weekend. Looked for morels on some of our state areas yesterday but did not see any.
North Platte area
It’s been in the mid-low 30’s at night… not sure if the dirt is warm enough just yet. Got a rain shower yesterday. Maybe start early next week?
We are very close to the morels popping up in our area river bottom woodlands (Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn), but we direly need moisture. Once we get some rain, I believe we will have our first major morel crop of the season. The ground temps are warm enough.
No morels to report yet due to very cold temps and being early April. Did talk to one group of three morel hunters at Ponca State Park on Sunday who had looked and found none.
Many morel hunters swear by one of two ways of preparing morels — breading and frying, or sauteing in some butter and herbs. For those looking for a new twist on morel preparation, here are recipes from NEBRASKAland’s Jenny Nguyen for morel linguine and morel pizza.
Hunting other mushrooms in Nebraska
Once the morel season is over, many mushroom hunters assume the mushroom season is over, but it’s not. In fact, it’s just getting started. NEBRASKAland’s Julie Geiser wrote about the many varieties of edible mushrooms available in Nebraska, where to find them, and how to prepare them. Read the full story.