Nebraska Game and Parks
Hunting, fishing, and camping activities contribute significantly to Nebraska’s economy. Here’s more information about how our state parks and wildlife areas are managed.
No matter your style of adventure, parks offer many things to explore. Whether walking a rails-to-trails conversion trail, visiting a historic fort, or searching for fossils – there is plenty to see and discover here! Start planning yours now!
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Nebraska’s fish, wildlife, state parks, and outdoor recreation resources in the long-term interests of Nebraskans and its natural environment. It consists of nine commissioners appointed by the Governor to lead agency management, establish hunting seasons/regulations/manage fisheries at numerous public lakes/promote wildlife conservation through education/operate game farms/hatcheries/conduct recreational safety programs, etc. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission was created under Nebraska state statute in 1949 as an entity responsible for perpetually protecting the Nebraskan people and Nebraskan’s natural environment. It operates under state statute as nine commissioners appointed by the Governor with the Governor’s direction/direct management/directly reporting to the Governor.
No matter your outdoor activity of choice – hunting, fishing, camping, birding, hiking, biking, or canoeing – Nebraska Game and Parks should be your first destination! Our mission is to preserve Nebraska’s fisheries, wildlife, state park recreation areas, and other resources so future generations will benefit from them as much as we do today.
Nebraska’s parks are rich in history. Visit Fort Robinson for its legendary battleground and explore Oregon Trail trails. Rock Creek Station and Ash Hollow State Historical Park offer impressive archaeological records; these places truly embodied living history! Witness it for yourself!
Nebraska Game and Parks provides programs designed to build outdoor skills, from Dutch-oven cooking and camping, fishing and fishing, and exploring nature with our nature centers and reservable nature education trunks. Giving back is easy, too, with a tax-deductible contribution to the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation that will fund projects that cannot be accomplished with limited state funding alone.
Ponca State Park
Ponca State Park is a public recreation area along the Missouri River four miles northeast of Ponca in Nebraska’s northeast corner, featuring spectacular high bluffs, dense forests, wide-sweeping vistas, and abundant wildlife. Offering outdoor recreational activities and lodging services such as a full-service campground with 73 powered RV campsites and 31 cabins, Ponca State Park is also a popular camping destination both among Nebraskans and visitors from neighboring states alike – offering boating, fishing, and hunting activities as well as a full marina, aquatic center, and swimming pool facilities!
Park visitors can discover its diverse landscape on over 20 miles of hiking trails that wind across hills and bluffs, top-rated among mountain bikers. Guided hikes and naturalist programs also take place here, and it is often used as an excellent spot for birdwatching or to spot bald eagles.
Park Wildlife includes white-tailed deer and wild turkeys; at night, howling bobcats and barred owls fill the hills; visitors may catch sight of red and gray foxes, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and other small mammals such as red squirrels.
This park offers one of the state’s most extensive environmental education programs, featuring expert instructors teaching ecology, history, geology, biology, and astronomy to guests on-site. Golfing, boating, and swimming activities can also be enjoyed during visits here – following basic healthcare rules such as washing hands regularly is essential to help stop COVID-19 spread!
Rock Creek Station
Rock Creek Station was a stagecoach and Pony Express stop during a short time in the early 1860s, situated in Southeastern Nebraska. Today, its 350 acres feature deep wagon ruts reminiscent of overland travel history as well as many reconstructed buildings such as East and West Ranches; visitors may also spot an old toll bridge, post office, and barn that once serviced this trail; plus, there are both primitive and modern RV camping opportunities here!
At Rock Creek Station State Historical Park Visitor Center, visitors can learn more about the Pony Express through artifacts from that era and period-themed buildings. Open seasonally and offering living history demonstrations featuring gunfight reenactments as well as costumed interpreters to provide information about life on the trail – visitors will experience it all through this visit!
The park boasts six miles of hiking and nature trails past reconstructed buildings and wagon ruts. Visitors can also fish for catfish and bass in Rock Creek, which runs through the park; those wishing to fish must obtain a Nebraska state fishing license before fishing in this location.
Rock Creek Station provides special events and programs throughout the year, from live music performances and cooking demos to craft workshops. In addition, its theater offers space for special arrangements. Visitors to the park can reserve cabins, lodge rooms, and group lodges through its reservation system; pets are allowed but must remain leashed at all times.
Ash Hollow State Historical Park
Ash Hollow State Historical Park in Lewellen, Nebraska, features two main attractions – an ancient cave and Windlass Hill – and is a favorite among travelers and history enthusiasts. Spanning over 1,000 acres, Ash Hollow offers visitors scenic hiking trails that lead through wagon ruts created by their passage. The paved hiking trail also showcases outdoor exhibits.
The canyon was once a beloved rest stop on both Oregon and California trails, offering relief from dry landscapes needing fresh water, food, timber supplies, and wagon ruts from descending Windlass Hill (a steep incline reaching 25 degrees), which remain today. Wagons made their way down Windlass Hill by traveling down its wooden ramparts, where spring-fed natural springs provided freshwater supply; food was supplied through nearby valleys while wagons descended Windlass Hill, leaving permanent marks that remain visible today in the form of wagon ruts in cliff sides where wagons traversing Windlass Hill left their mark today with wagon ruts visible along its sides cliffsides that remain today!
The park currently features a visitor center and museum dedicated to nearly 10,000 years of human history, featuring geologic, paleontological, Overland Trail, and Native American exhibits. Furthermore, the Ash Hollow Pageant — an annual musical and dramatic performance featuring life on Oregon and California Trails — takes place annually at this park.
Ash Hollow Cave was used by Pawnee and Sioux Native American tribes and early explorers and pioneers as shelter. At the same time, visitors can explore it on guided tours departing from the visitor center. There’s also a rock schoolhouse and sod house within the park grounds, plus hiking up Windlass Hill offers scenic views over the North Platte River valley.
Bowring Ranch in Nebraska is a state park dedicated to exploring the heritage of the Sand Hills region, featuring both an original ranch house owned by former U.S. Senator Eve Bowring and her husband Arthur; in addition, there is also a replica sod house and a replica sod house as well as an educational visitor center with displays on ranching, homesteading, and geology – making this an excellent spot for weekend camping trips!
Eve Bowring became Nebraska’s first female U.S. Senator while working on her Bar 99 Ranch near Merriman. Known for micromanaging her operation and demanding that all hired men report directly to her every morning when reporting for duty, one gentleman stuttered when writing to Eve: he started by telling Eve, “M-m-missus B-b-bowring I hope all your damned cows die today!”
The park gives visitors a glimpse into the past, with preserved buildings that tell the story of history and culture in this part of Nebraska. Furthermore, displays about Eve Bowring’s life with her husband and exhibits related to ranching and homesteading activities in the Sandhills are on display.
Bowring Ranch State Historical Park is an ideal family destination, especially if you enjoy wildlife observation. P picnic spots, boasting over 170 species of birds, such as sandhill cranes, great horned owls, and red-tailed hawks, provide visitors ample space to take in this scenic view while dining on delicious food and stunning landscapes. Pets are welcome on park grounds but must remain leashed and cannot enter historic structures such as ranch houses, bunkhouses, or bunkrooms.