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8 opportunities for enjoying the outdoors this spring

Spring is here — and with it, opportunities of all kinds to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation or the chance to learn new skills, you can find it at a Nebraska state park. Here are some activities you can start enjoying now.


Take in the fresh breezes and spring colors on a hiking trail. Nebraska’s state parks have a variety of trails, including gentle walking paths and rugged mountain biking trails. If you want to watch birds during your trek, visit Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area in western Nebraska, which boasts a diverse range of species. The park also has a nature center perfect for a break after your walk.

Other parks with beautiful trails in spring include Chadron State Park, with its ponderosa pine scenery, and Niobrara State Park in northeastern Nebraska, where you can catch stunning sunset views on the bluffs overlooking the river. Find more trails at

A family walks down a concrete path
The gazebo and walking trail at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Cass County draws visitors in spring. Jeff Kurrus, Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Wildlife Watching

Birding is a great spring activity, as Nebraska is a prime spot during spring migration. Opportunities include wild turkeys and hundreds of songbirds returning to the state from their winter homes.

Other spring wildlife watching opportunities include red fox kits, which are usually born in March and April and will emerge from their dens around four to five weeks after birth. You can also hear frogs calling statewide anywhere there is water, and many snake species will begin emerging from their dens in April, as well. Bring some binoculars, keep a healthy distance, be patient and you might see some amazing sights.

Learn more at   

yellow-headed blackbird in front of gray sky
A yellow-headed blackbird sings its song while perched among the rushes at a private pond southwest of Hay Springs in Sheridan County. Justin Haag, Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Spring is go-time for anglers. Everybody wants to be out fishing in April and May as there are so many opportunities, especially as the water warms up.

While you can find good fishing for just about any species, crappie and walleye will be especially favorable. Crappie can be found statewide in shallow water where they’re easy to access. As for walleye, they’re “king” in May and June, said fisheries biologist Daryl Bauer. Seek out large reservoirs, like those in the central and western part of the state, for the best walleye fishing.

See the 2024 Fishing Forecast at for more tips on where to fish for these species and many others.

A woman holds a large walleye
Spring is a prime time to go walleye or crappie fishing at Nebraska State Parks. Jeff Kurrus, Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Camping in spring allows you to beat the summer rush and avoid the heat. While you can find great camping at many Nebraska state parks, division administrator Bob Hanover pointed out a few that are particularly good this time of year.

One is Memphis State Recreation Area, located between Lincoln and Omaha. This small, lesser-known park offers a quiet atmosphere to relax in, a recently renovated lake, and a large campground with dozens of mature shade trees.

Hanover also recommended parks located by Nebraska’s southwestern reservoirs, such as Medicine Creek, Enders and Swanson state recreation areas, for a back-to-nature atmosphere. Louisville State Recreation Area in the east is another good pick in the spring, before summer crowds arrive.

Before you visit, call ahead to check on water service; water remains off in most parks until the threat of freeze has passed. Find contact information at

A woman and girl run to a picnic table in near a lake
Medicine Creek State Recreation Area in Frontier County offers a back-to-nature atmosphere for spring camping experiences. Eric Fowler, Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

If you’re looking to unwind for an afternoon lunch with friends or family, look no farther than your closest state park. By May, you can enjoy great picnicking in every park area; all have picnic tables, and most have shade and picnic shelters.

Hanover especially recommended Victoria Springs State Recreation Area, a peaceful spot near the Sandhills with plenty of Nebraska history, and Windmill State Recreation Area, located between Grand Island and Kearney. Both are quiet areas where you can enjoy nature in a calm setting. 

Picnic tables look small under cottonwood trees
Cottonwoods and other trees shade the picnic area at Victoria Springs State Recreation Area in Custer County. Eric Fowler, NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Look for Wildflowers

Spring is an opportune time to look for wildflowers because they’re easy to spot; in summer, they’re competing with tall grasses and may be harder to see.

Botanist Gerry Steinauer recommends looking for violets in spring; a range of species can be found across the state. You can also look for prairie daisies in the west, at places like Fort Robinson State Park and Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. Other spring wildflowers include jack-in-the-pulpit, mayapple, bloodroot and prairie ragwort. Learn more in Jon Farrar’s book: “Field Guide to Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains.”

woodland violets on the ground
Woodland violets after a spring rain at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Washington County. Jenny Nyugen-Wheatley, Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Disc Golf

Ready for a relaxing afternoon enjoying nature with family and friends? Try some disc golf. Hanover recommended several state parks for this; one is Fort Kearny State Recreation Area — easily accessible off the interstate, with a nice course and good camping.

Indian Cave State Park is another choice spot, with gorgeous springtime scenery and mushroom hunting opportunities. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park also offers a nice disc golf course and many other activities for guests. For a full list of state parks offering disc golf, filter the interactive map at  

A man throws a disc on a disc golf course
Chadron State Park in the Pine Ridge of Dawes County offers disc golf on the park grounds. Justin Haag, Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Archery and Shooting Ranges

Archery and shooting sports are a fun way to challenge yourself and learn new skills. Nebraska offers several facilities with equipment, instruction and a family-friendly environment.

Turpin Outdoor Education Center in Lincoln is open year-round, with regularly scheduled programming for both newbies and advanced students. Platte River State Park’s Outdoor Heritage Education Complex opens in May, as does the Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex. The new Kearny Outdoor Education Complex is open on weekends from April 6 to May 12, and then on weekdays through Sept. 16.

A boy shoots an arrow at a target
A park visitor takes aim on the archery range at /Wildcat Hills Shooting Complex at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area in Scotts Bluff County. Justin Haag, Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

You also can practice on your own at Ponca State Park’s Eric Wiebe Shooting Complex or nearly 20 outdoor archery ranges, one shotgun range and two rifle ranges across the state. See details at

Learn more about the parks mentioned here, and buy a park entry permit to gain entrance, at

About Renae Blum

Renae Blum is a writer and copy editor for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Nebraskaland Magazine.

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