Johnson Lake State Recreation Area

  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Picnicking
  • Playground
  • Swimming

Excellent camping, fishing and water sports are hallmarks of this popular area, just 10 miles south of Lexington. This recreation area packs a lot of outdoor fun in 68 acres and provides three access points to the 2,068-acre lake.

It is the heart of a complex of lakes on the Tri-County Canal south of I-80 between Lexington and Cozad. It provides fine outdoor recreation opportunities, especially when joined with the nearby Gallagher Canyon SRA, Elwood Reservoir WMA, Plum Creek and Phillips Canyon.

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Johnson Lake offers excellent angling for a variety of fish, including walleye, white bass and wipers. Recent angler access improvements provide great habitat for quality fishing. Two handicap-accessible fishing piers are available, one on the north side of the inlet and another on the south side. Two fishing cleaning stations are available, as well. Depth and temperature information is available on the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District website.

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 types of boats are permitted at the lake. You’ll see fishing boats, sail boats, paddle boats and personal water craft.


A public swim beach provides a place for families to enjoy the water close to amenities and grills for family barbecues.


Johnson Lake has many great areas for friends and family to gather for a cookout or picnic. The area offers 144 picnic tables, 133 grills and five shelters.

Other activities

Johnson Lake has many community and lake events. An annual Independence Day boat parade followed by a fireworks show is always popular with park guests. The annual Juneboree craft fair draws both artisans and shoppers. Other events include eagle viewing, bird watching on the Larry Roper Trail, fishing tournaments and more.



Johnson Lake SRA offers Electric Plus, Electric and Basic campsites. Other amenities include modern restrooms, dump and fill station, shower house, picnic tables and fire ring/grills.

In additional to electrical hookup sites, Johnson Lake offers first-come, first-served Basic campsites without electricity.

Camping reservations are available for half of the campsites in the Main and South Inlet campgrounds. All other camping 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 the park, statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors or in advance of your arrival online.


Nearby attractions


Waterfront restaurants offer nice, casual dining opportunities. Dining and lodging are available in nearby Elwood and Lexington. Johnson Lake is conveniently located south of the Interstate 80 for easy travels.

Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles

Located off the Lexington exit on Interstate 80, the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles has about 100 vehicles including helicopters, tanks, halftracks, ambulances and a jeep from every branch of the service, as well as displays of weapons, uniforms, engines, equipment, and more.

Contact Information

Address: Johnson Lake SRA | 1 East Park Dr. 25A | Elwood, NE 68937-9804
Phone: (308) 785-2685

Email: Send email