Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area

  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Canoe/Kayak
  • Fishing
  • Food Service
  • Hunting
  • Picnicking

Located in a picturesque valley of the Snake River 26 miles southwest of Valentine, Merritt Reservoir is an offers some of Nebraska’s best fishing, along with boating and camping. It is a deep lake with excellent inflow from the Snake River and Boardman Creek. The park also offers some of the darkest skies in the world, meaning the park is well-known for its stargazing opportunities. In 2022, it was designated as an International Dark Sky Park.

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Renowned for its Sandhills location providing spectacular astronomical views, Merritt Reservoir SRA is the perfect stargazing destination.

In 2022, Merritt Reservoir SRA became the first Nebraska site certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. The IDA is the recognized authority on light pollution and is the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide.

Merritt has hosted the annual Nebraska Star Party each summer for 29 years, when professional and amateur astronomers converge to take advantage of a sky free of light pollution.

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Walleye, crappie and white bass have long been the favorites with anglers here, although lunker catfish can be found in the Snake River arm. The reservoir has two modern fish cleaning stations.

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 boating are permitted at Merritt. Ready access to the lake is available at public boat ramps in the Powder Horn, Main, Beed’s Landing and Snake River areas. There are five ramps and seven docks all together. Fuel is available nearby at the Merritt Trading Post.


The Merritt Trading Post is a privately owned resort just outside the state recreation area. It offers a restaurant, cabins, bait, groceries, fuel, cabins and boat rental.


Hunting is permitted in season at Merritt Reservoir beginning the day after Labor Day. Sharp-tails and prairie grouse are prime upland species. Both whitetails and mule deer along with wild turkey offer good action here. There is some excellent waterfowl hunting on the lake and on the sandhills lakes in the area.


Merritt offers 200 picnic tables, along with 190 grill and eight picnic shelters.



Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area offers Electric Plus, Electric and Basic campsites with numerous camping options over several campgrounds. See the campground maps for detailed information on campground and campsite amenities. Water, modern restrooms and showers are available to campers and there is a dump and fill station on site. Additional camping spots are available at the Merritt Trading Post.

Camping reservations are available for half of the campsites in Beeds Landing, Boardman and Cedar Bay 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

Valentine National Wildlife Refuge

The nearby Valentine National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 72,000 acres in the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills. Lakes and marshes in the valleys and prairie grasses in the hills and meadows provide habitat for many kinds of wildlife. The refuge also provides excellent fishing opportunities. Learn more on the refuge website.

Contact Information

Address: Merritt Reservoir SRA | Valentine, NE 69201-1904

Email: Send email

Phone: 402-376-3320