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Willow Creek State Recreation Area


Park Snapshot

Please note: Blue Green Algae tested high at Willow Creek on Thursday 7-17-2014. For more information about this Toxic Algae Alert visit the NDEQ page.

Alcohol is prohibited at Willow Creek State Recreation Area.


Willow Creek, 1 1/2 miles SW of Pierce, has 1,633 acres with a 700-acre lake. Facilities include: 100 camping pads, 64 with 30 amp electrical hookups, 19 with 50 amp electrical hookups. Picnic tables and shelters, fire grates, water, showers, modern restrooms, accessible fishing pier, archery field course, unsupervised swimming, two playgrounds and an 8-mile hiking/horseback trail around the lake. Seven rock jetties provide some fine fishing access.


Located 1 1/2 miles southwest of Pierce, scenic Willow Creek State Recreation Area draws its name from the meandering stream that feeds the Elkhorn River in northeast Nebraska. It covers some 1,633 acres, including a 700-acres flood-control reservoir. The area is particularly popular with campers, anglers, picnickers and hunters.

Begun in 1982, the $5.2 million reservoir project was built by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District with cost-sharing by the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission.

Recreation is managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The rec area opened in August 1984 and offers camping, fishing, boating and swimming. Picnickers will find shelters along with an ample supply of tables and fire grates. An 8-mile hiking and horseback trail winds through the area, with a limestone trail meandering from the swimming beach and proceeding to the west edge of Pierce. Park roads may also be used by horseback riders. Come winter, roads and the lake surface (ice permitting) are open to snowmobilers.

There is a designated swimming beach, but swimming is unsupervised. Since there are no lifeguards, swimmers should use care and swim with a companion.


All campers must register. Reservations are accepted. Reservations are taken for 50% of the modern camping at Willow Creek's modern campground the remaining is first-come, first-serve. Reservations are taken up to 1 year in advance of arrival day. Year to date reservations begin at 9 .m. CT, by phone, in person or over the Internet. Stays are limited to 14 days. There are 100 pads in the campground, 84 with electrical hookups, which includes a handicap accessible camp pad. The modern shower house has laundry facilities, and there is a dump station. Fees are charged for camping, with an additional cost for electricity. Campers are asked to self-register on arrival and deposit the appropriate fee in the drop box. Drinking water and vault toilets are available at the campground, as well as other sites around the lake.

Willow Creek State Recreation is a beautiful recreation area that provides 9 miles of limestone hiking and grass-mowed horseback trails around the 700-acre lake. This multi-purpose area provides great fishing and boating when you need to give your horses a rest. Willow Creek State Recreation Area provides a horse campground with 10, 50-amp electric camp pads. Each camp pad has a corral for your horse. Several of these campsites are available for reservations up to one year in advance.

In addition, a group horse camp with two barbless wire fence corrals are available first-come first serve. Beautiful place to horseback ride, enjoy the lake fishing, boating, and camping!

Boating and Fishing

The reservoir accommodates both anglers and boaters. The main body of the lake is open to all boating and to water skiing, while the wooded west end (about half the lake surface) is restricted to 5 mph, wakeless boating.

Anglers will find action on crappie, bluegill, bass, catfish, walleye, northern pike, and wipers. This is a fairly shallow lake, and the deepest point measures only about 35 feet in depth.

Wildlife and Hunting

Parts of the recreation area are open to hunting, in season, beginning the first Tuesday after Labor Day. Species available include: Pheasant, quail, mourning dove, rabbit, squirrel and a variety of waterfowl. Deer hunting is allowed, but it is restricted to archery or shotgun slug. Rifles and handguns may not be used on the area.

Bird watchers will find an intriguing array of birdlife to capture their fancy. There are numerous species, some rare, to entice sharp-eyed viewers.

A current Nebraska Park Entry Permit is required for all vehicles at Willow Creek. Permits and other goods and services are available in nearby Pierce or from any Nebraska hunting/fishing permit dealer.

Pets are permitted, but they must be kept on a leash Alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Vehicles must remain on roadways.

Nearby Recreation

Several other Nebraska park areas lie within a short driving distance of Willow Creek. To the north and east are Niobrara and Ponca state parks and Lewis and Clark Lake SRA and these areas have modern campgrounds, picnicking, cabin lodging and other facilities. Niobrara and Ponca SP both have swimming pools.

To the south is the Cowboy Trail. This trail is a limestone trail from the Ta-Ha-Zouka Park (south of Norfolk) to O'Neill, with additional segments completed on this state-wide trail.

About a half hour to the northwest is Grove Lake State Wildlife Area and Trout Rearing Station. Visitors can even feed the fish in the rearing ponds. One of the few trout streams in northeast Nebraska crosses the area, and visitors may have the opportunity to view a variety of wildlife.

A few miles north and west of Grove Lake is Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, a fascinating area. Here visitors can watch ongoing excavations of prehistoric animals preserved under layers of volcanic ash deposited eons ago.

Overnight Accommodations

Camping Facilities:
84 camping pads with electrical hookups*
18 camping pads without electricity
*20/30-amp. 1-year advance reservable campsites

Willow Creek is a 700 acre lake with 933 acres of land adjacent. This area offers modern latrines, showers, electrical camp pads, primitive camping, power boating, fishing, picnicking, a swimming beach and 7 handicapped fishing piers.

All campers must register. Reservations are accepted. Reservations are taken for 50% of the modern camping. Reservations are taken up to 1 year in advance of arrival day.

Download your Willow Creek Brochure.
Willow Creek Brochure

Facility Details

Camping: Yes

Water: Yes
Modern Restroom: Yes
Dump Station: Yes
Showers: Yes
Laundry: Yes

Lodging: No

Cabins: 0
Rooms: 0
Dorms: 0
Food Service: No

Trails: Yes

Hiking: 8 miles
Mtn. Bike: 8 miles
Horse: 8 miles
Trail Rides: No
Allow Horses: An 8 mile mowed horse trail is established around the lake. Horse camp set up with two barbless wire fence corrals. Water nearby.

Picnicking: Yes

Picnic Tables: 125
Grills: 111
Shelters: 6
Shelters w/ elec.: 2

Boating: Yes

Types: All
Ramps: 4
Docks: 3
Fuel Avail.: No
Boat Rental: No
River Access: No

Fishing: Yes

Cleaning Stations: 0

Swimming: Yes

Pools: 0
Beaches: 1

Concessions: No

Visitor Center: No

Office on Site: No

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