5 Things To Do In Winter In Keith County

1.  BIRDWATCHING

Winter is for the birds in Keith County!  Our location on the Central Flyway and proximity to large bodies of water add up to ideal conditions for birds. More than 360 species have been identified in the area, with over 100 breeding species. Winter opportunities include Red-tailed Hawks, at least 12 species of gulls, Western Grebe and much more. Bald Eagles begin showing up in larger numbers when the weather turns cold. CNPPID’s heated eagle viewing facility at Lake Ogallala opened the weekend of Jan. 8-9, and it will remain open Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (MST) through February.
There is no guarantee that eagles will be present at all times. A
limited number of binoculars are available at the facilities, but
visitors are encouraged to bring their own viewing equipment.
(Subject to change depending on conditions – check ahead to verify at 308-284-2332.) Check the Lake McConaughy Birding Trails Map and Bird Species Checklist to get started on your birdwatching adventure.  (Eagle photo: Teri Elmshaeuser)

2.  HIKING & BEACHCOMBING
Lake McConaughy  has 100+ miles of shoreline to explore, and there is a 2.5 mile long Hike/Bike trail on the east side of Lake Ogallala.

Exploring the beaches and trail via fat tire bikes is also becoming very popular. The lake area is beautiful all year round, but the peace and solitude you’ll find in winter add a truly special dimension to the experience.  Whether you’re hiking for exercise or just taking a stroll, you’ll have the chance to observe the unique geology, plants and wildlife activity in the lake area.  Thanks for leaving only your footprints!

** SPECIAL EVENT: Welcome the New Year by taking part in a 1st Day Hike on the Lake Ogallala State Rec Area Hike/Bike Trail on Jan. 1, 2022 beginning at 1:00 p.m.  Dress warmly and remember to bring water.  Leashed pets welcome. Meet at the Lake Ogallala East Campground. There will be opportunities to try to spot bald eagles and other birds.  Contact NE Game and Parks for more info at 308-284-8800.

3.  LOCAL VISITOR ATTRACTIONS

When you’re ready to explore while staying warm, there are several local museums and galleries that stay open year round.  The Petrified Wood & Art Gallery in Ogallala is one of Keith County’s most unique sites. In addition to its signature collection of original artwork made from ancient woods, the Gallery houses Western artwork, Native American art and artifacts, gemstones, and fossils. It also hosts rotating collections that showcase regional artists.  The gift shop offers souvenirs for rockhounds as well as locally made artwork and jewelry. Check their winter hours here.
– Explore cowboy history and artifacts from Ogallala’s early days as the end of the Texas Trail at Front Street’s free Cowboy Museum.
– The Lake McConaughy Visitor/Water Interpretative Center houses two 1,000 gallon aquariums with native Nebraska fish plus interactive exhibits.

** SPECIAL EVENT:  Celebrate a Merry Prairie Christmas at Ogallala’s Mansion on the Hill.  The Mansion, Schoolhouse, and O’Brien-Lute house will be authentically decked out for the holidays on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021 from 1 to 3 p.m. Enjoy caroling, hayrack rides, hot cocoa, cider & cookies, plus a make-and-take activity for kids.  $2 admission will go to the Keith Co. Education History Museum project. The Mansion is usually open to tours Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends, so this is a great opportunity to see this lovely 1887 Victorian home on the National Register of Historic Places.

4.  KEITH COUNTY SHOPPING OPPORTUNITIES

From antiques to boutique clothing to gifts & souvenirs, Keith County is full of unique family-owned businesses to explore and shop. Watch for businesses housed in historic buildings, such as Anne Marie’s in Paxton, located in a preserved Union Pacific train depot, and The Grainery next door, located in a relocated 1923 grain elevator.
**SPECIAL PROMOTION:

When you #ShopSmall for the holidays in Keith County, an actual person does a little happy dance! Stop and explore through Dec. 24 for the chance to win a free Lake McConaughy t-shirt. No purchase required. Just download the Lake Mac app to do the Keith County Holiday Scavenger Hunt. (App Store: https://apple.co/3ePv9AI or Google Play: http://bit.ly/2x5P0b8)
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SCAVENGER HUNT HERE! 

5.  WINTER FISHING

Watch the weather forecast for mild days and fish like the locals!  Many local anglers and guides put their boats in and slab for walleye until the bays freeze.  2021 has also been a good year for the late fall/early winter smallmouth bass bite.   Docks will remain available at Diver’s Bay, Martin Bay Low Water, Lemoyne and Cedar View Lakeside until the water begins to freeze.

Around 1,300 “put and take” size tiger trout were stocked in early December at Lake Ogallala. Tiger trout are a cross between brown trout and brook trout. The north fishing dock remains available for fishermen, and anglers can also try their luck fly fishing and casting from the banks.

Check the pinned post on the Lake McConaughy Facebook page for updated information, or call the local NE Game and Parks office at 308-284-8800.   Check the local fishing guide list here.  (Photo:  Dollhouse Lures)