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Travelers to Nebraska, situated hundreds of miles from any coastline, may be surprised to find endless opportunities for water recreation. With boating, fishing, windsurfing and wakeboarding, Nebraska’s water sports appeal to outdoor adventurers and contemplative fisherman alike.
Boating and fishing
Nebraska’s most popular water feature is Lake McConaughy near the western town of Ogalalla. The 35,700-acre lake is outfitted with 15 boat ramps, 326 pad sites (268 with electrical hookups), modern restrooms, picnic areas and swimming beaches, making it the ultimate sporting lake. Known to locals as Big Mac, it boasts some of the state’s best fishing and has been named by Walleye Insider magazine as among the country’s best for that species.
Travelers angling for a fishing adventure will appreciate Nebraska’s plentiful fish populations, such as that at Lewis and Clark Lake. The state’s second-largest lake is known for hefty walleye and sauger. With its chalk bluffs, blue water, and plenty of hiking and biking trails, the recreation area is popular with campers and includes more than 1,000 campsites. In the Sandhills, a variety of fish, including white bass, wipers and the “king of freshwater fish,” muskellunge, await anglers at Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area (85 miles northwest of Grand Island.) Sailboaters and powerboaters love its clear waters, sandy beaches and numerous campsites. Nearby Gracie Creek Pond is an excellent spot for trout fishing.
Canoeing, Tubing and Tanking
Nebraska is home to diverse streams perfect for canoeing, tubing and a uniquely Nebraskan water sport: tanking. The Niobrara, named one of the top 10 canoeing rivers in the nation by Backpacker magazine, snakes through the north-central region of the state, flowing gently through a deep valley shaded by dense aspen and pine. Occasional patches of white water punctuate the otherwise leisurely ride. Nearby, campers can take in the view of Nebraska’s largest waterfall, the 90-foot plunge of Smith Falls. The Dismal River, in the Sandhills, twists and turns through steep canyons and then slows to a gentle pace as it flows through broad prairie valleys. A popular 55-mile canoe trail begins 60 miles northwest of North Platte and ends at Nebraska National Forest near Halsey. The gently meandering Calamus River, which also provides excellent canoeing, is known for tanking. Livestock tanks are outfitted with comfortable seating and become water vessels perfect for groups of friends and families. As they float down the river, the tanks bob and rotate like a tilt-o-whirl ride to create a fun way to enjoy the view and soak up some sun.
Find more water recreation opportunities and attractions at VisitNebraska.gov.