Outdoor notes: Five state recreation areas will allow fireworks on July 4
Visitors to five state recreation areas will be allowed to touch off fireworks on July 4. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission urges them to be careful when lighting fireworks.
The areas that will permit fireworks from 8 a.m. until midnight on July 4 are Branched Oak (Liebers Point only), Fort Kearny, Memphis, Pawnee and Wagon Train.
Signs at recreation areas will point the way to designated fireworks sites, and boundaries will be clearly marked. Use of fireworks elsewhere in state areas or at other times is prohibited.
Only fireworks approved for sale in Nebraska by the state fire marshal are permitted, and visitors must pick up expended fireworks and deposit them in appropriate containers. Minor children must be supervised when discharging fireworks. Use, possession and the discharging of fireworks is at the sole risk of the users.
A park entry permit is required for all vehicles entering state recreation areas.
Stream Renovation Underway At Bordeaux Creek WMA
Workers have begun a project to improve a stream and its banks at Bordeaux Creek Wildlife Management Area near Chadron.
Brett Roberg, a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission fisheries biologist, said the project on Big Bordeaux Creek is expected to increase stream-angling opportunities, provide cleaner water and increase resilience to drought and flooding.
The project’s primary goal is to regrade a floodplain along the creek to safeguard the active stream channel during times of high water and improve recreational access for anglers. Rocks, trees and other natural materials will be positioned in the stream to diversify habitat for both trout and native fish.
“Given the limited number of cool-water streams that fall on public lands in Nebraska, our project team recognized the need for enhancing and conserving the diversity of habitats found at Bordeaux Creek WMA,” Roberg said. “Stream access and high-quality habitats had been previously limited by the vertical stream banks and elevated erosion, causing a decrease in water quality and a reduction in the desirable habitats for fish.”
Upon completion, anglers will find many fewer obstacles to casting a line along the creek. Areas along the stream also will be reseeded with a diverse mixture of native grasses and supplemented with trees and shrubs. The improvements are expected to damper stream bank erosion and expand the riparian buffer to further improve water quality.
Leading up to the habitat improvements, Game and Parks employees and volunteers tagged about 1,000 fish within the wildlife area and will assess how they respond to the new habitat conditions with follow-up surveys.
The Bordeaux Creek project is part of Game and Parks’ comprehensive Cool Water Stream Management Plan, which strives to support productive and sustainable populations of aquatic life, have healthy riparian zones and clean water, and contribute to watershed stability. Roberg said the project will serve as an exemplary demonstration site for stewardship and sustainability when it is completed.
The project is likely to be finished by the end of the year. It is being funded by proceeds of the Aquatic Habitat Stamp, which is included in the purchase of fishing permits, and a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Big Bordeaux Creek, which originates from springs in the Pine Ridge, meanders northward through a 1-mile section at the west end of the 1,915-acre wildlife area before later merging with Little Bordeaux Creek and the White River. The section of creek is about 3 miles east of Chadron.
Unlimited quota deer, antelope permits available starting July 11
Hunters may begin purchasing unlimited quota Nebraska deer and antelope permits July 11.
Residents, nonresidents and eligible landowners may purchase permits through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission starting at 1 p.m. Central time.
Unlimited quota deer permits are resident statewide archery, resident statewide muzzleloader, youth, youth whitetail, nonresident restricted youth, limited landowner and special landowner.
Unlimited quota antelope permits are resident statewide archery and youth archery.
A regulation change made by Game and Parks in March created additional purchase periods for big game permits, allowing Nebraska hunters to buy deer and antelope permits in non-draw management units before nonresidents. The result gives residents preference over nonresidents.
The remaining purchase periods are:
July 12 – Residents may buy any limited quota deer permits.
July 13 – Residents may buy any limited antelope permits.
July 25 – Nonresidents may buy any limited deer permits.
July 26 – Nonresidents may buy any limited antelope permits.
Aug. 1 – Residents and nonresidents may buy any remaining draw unit deer permits.
Aug. 2 – Residents, nonresidents and eligible landowners may buy any remaining draw unit antelope permits.
Permits will be available through the close of the hunting season or until the quota sells out.
Purchases may be made online at OutdoorNebraska.org, in person at a Game and Parks office, or via mail: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 2200 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE, 68503.
For more information on big game hunting and permits, see the 2022 Nebraska Big Game Guide at OutdoorNebraska.gov/guides/.
Public encouraged to take part in summer turkey survey
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is inviting the public to participate in its annual summer turkey survey July 1-Aug. 31.
The survey provides useful estimates about annual production by wild turkey hens and how many poults, or young turkeys, survive the summer brood-rearing period. These records and observations inform management decisions regarding wild turkeys, their population size and habitat needs.
During July and August, survey participants are asked to record all turkeys they see. Visit outdoornebraska.gov/turkeybroodsurvey for instructions and the survey link. The link can be bookmarked on a phone for easy use in the field.
“The results of this survey have been really important in helping us understand our turkey populations,” said Luke Meduna, Game and Parks’ big game program manager. “While we have seen declines in turkey numbers across the state, brood sizes, hen, poult and tom ratios in recent years have remained consistent with historic rates.”
View the 2021 survey results at outdoornebraska.gov/wildlifesurveys.
Fish kill reported at Pibel Lake
A fish kill at Pibel Lake in southern Wheeler County has affected a variety of sport fish and set back the size quality of fish in the popular fishing spot.
Thousands of largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish died June 21-22 in the 25-surface-acre lake south of Bartlett. High water temperature combined with a rapid die-off and decay of aquatic vegetation resulted in extremely low dissolved oxygen levels in the lake.
The kill affected larger size fish in each species. A sampling conducted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission after the kill showed a good number of smaller sized bass and bluegill survived.
The remaining fish should grow rapidly, and the fishery is expected to recover. However, anglers should note the quality size of fish in the lake will be set back for a year or two. The fishery will be monitored accordingly.
The lake is owned and maintained by the Lower Loup Natural Resources District and is a popular fishing stop for area anglers and travelers.
Float these 5 Nebraska water trails
With summer sizzling, now’s the time to hit Nebraska’s water trails for a chance to cool off.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission features 10 water trails along stretches of the state’s well-known rivers and creeks. For the most part, these water trails — which cover more than 500 miles — are calm and perfect for kayaking, canoeing, tubing or even tanking. Choose a trail or a portion of the trail to suit your interests and skills.
Here are our top five, must-do water trails for 2022:
- Calamus River Water Trail: Found in northcentral Nebraska, this river flows gently from its start in the Sandhills to the Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area. It flows even in the hottest and driest summer months because it's fueled by groundwater from the underlying Ogallala Aquifer. The trail can be extremely meandering, with some bends curving nearly 360 degrees. Views of the gently rolling Sandhills dunes are sure to wow travelers. Though the entire trail is 56.6 miles from Nebraska Highway 7, south of Ainsworth, to Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area, the float can be broken into smaller sections.
- Republican River Water Trail: This southwestern Nebraska water trail, a slow-flowing braided journey, offers the opportunity to see abundant wildlife. The best times to canoe are July and August, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases large quantities of water from Harlan County Lake. The trail is 49 miles from Harlan County Lake Dam to Red Cloud. Hot dry weather or intensive irrigation can affect the water levels, so be sure to check ahead.
- Platte River Water Trail: Drop in at the canoe and kayak launch at Schramm State Recreation Area and float down the Platte River to Louisville SRA — about 4.9 river miles or about one hour of float time. The difficulty of this east Nebraska water trail varies with water level and river flow, and during the summer, the navigable channel will narrow. Except at its lowest levels, the Platte’s flow is gentle, varying from 3 to 5 mph. If you want a bigger challenge, float the whole trail: about 55 miles from North Bend to Louisville SRA where a recently completed boat ramp and canoe access facility is located on the east end of the park, just before the Highway 50 bridge.
- Niobrara River Water Trail: The combination of spectacular scenery and an easy float trip have made the Niobrara River one of the top canoeing rivers in the country, drawing tens of thousands of people each year. In some spots, rock beds form short stretches of fast water, riffles and rapids (clearly marked by the Park Service), but for the most part, the flow is a lazy 2 to 3 mph along this north-central river. From the Cornell Bridge to Norden Bridge is 30.4 miles, but avid canoers and kayakers can do the entire 76-mile Niobrara National Scenic River stretch over multiple days.
- Lower Missouri River Water Trail: Most of this river is wild, appearing much like it did when Lewis and Clark traveled up it in 1804. This river winds back and forth between high banks, and those on the water will see Nebraska’s high, wooded bluffs and gorgeous exposed shale. Keep in mind, the Missouri can be 25-feet deep or more in places, so remember to wear your lifejacket. Drop in at Mulberry Bend Wildlife Management Area and end at Ponca State Park for a day trip over 22 river miles. Or plan a multiday trip along the entire 57-mile segment starting at Nebraska Tailwaters Recreation Area below Gavin’s Point Dam north of Crofton, Nebraska.
Keep in mind water levels can fluctuate with weather, as well as when it’s peak irrigation time, so be sure to check conditions on the U.S. Geological Survey streamflow site, waterdata.usgs.gov, before heading out.
Also remember only the water belongs to the State of Nebraska. The riverbeds and all adjacent lands are the property of the landowner through which the water flows, so be respectful of property.
To discover detailed descriptions and tips for each of these water trails, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/watertrails.