Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area

  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Playground

Peaceful and secluded, Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area includes a 60-acre Sandhills lake surrounded by 180 acres of rolling hills. The area is partially forested and offers power boating, fishing, bird watching and picnicking. Its remote location makes it an excellent place to see the stars and get away from it all.



Anglers at Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area will find bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike and yellow perch. Aquatic vegetation may hamper summer fishing.

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.


All boats are welcome at Cottonwood Lake. There is one ramp and one dock.

Bird watching

With its mixture of marshes, open water and wooded areas, Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area attracts a wide variety of avian species.


Cottonwood Lake offers 17 picnic tables, six grills and two picnic shelters. A playground on-site gives kids a place to play. Cottonwoods and other mature trees provide plenty of shade.



Cottonwood Lake SRA offers Basic campsites. There are 30 Basic campsites, all of which are located along the shoreline and near mature trees. Water and primitive toilets are available to campers. A water hydrant is available from May 1 through Oct. 1. There is no dump and fill station.

Camping at Cottonwood SRA is all first-come, first-served and campers register their nightly camping fees in a raised, locked box called an Iron Ranger. Self-service envelopes are provided at each Iron Ranger station. Check or cash only. Iron Rangers are generally located near the park entrance or in the campground area. On-site camping informational signs are provided to help guide campers with the self-registration process.



A park entry permit is required and may be purchased at statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors or in advance of your arrival online.


Nearby attractions

Bowring Ranch State Historical Park

Bowring Ranch State Historical Park is a working ranch donated by former U.S. Senator Eve Bowring in memory of her husband in order to preserve Nebraska’s ranching heritage. The ranch house has been converted to a museum, and the visitor center interprets ranching, homesteading, geology, wildlife and many other areas related to the Sandhills and Bowrings.


Food and fuel are available in nearby Merriman

Contact Information

Address: Cottonwood Lake SRA | Merriman, NE 69218-0038
Phone: (308) 684-3428

Email: Send email