Dive In -The Lake Mac Blog

Keith County Fair & Ogallala Round-Up Rodeo -

Experience an old-fashioned county fair in Keith County with all the fun you remember!   See www.keithcountyfair.com for the complete schedule.

Fair Week 2021 kicks off with the Ogallala Round-Up Rodeo Saturday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m. & Sunday, August 1 at 7:00 p.m.   The rodeo officially dates back to 1916, but Ogallala’s history is rooted in the open range cattle drive days as depicted in “Lonesome Dove.” And where there are cowboys, there are always exhibitions of rodeo skill!

Mutton bustin’ for the kids starts with registration at 6:00 p.m. both nights of the rodeo.

The Keith County Fair & Rodeo Parade will be held Sunday, August 1 at 2:30 p.m. down North Spruce Street in downtown Ogallala. Another great event for the kids as parade entrants pass out treats.

There will be a carnival at the 2021 Keith County Fair!

South Dakota-based Mac’s Carnival and Attractions will be at the fairgrounds August 5-7 (Thursday through Saturday) beginning at 6:00 p.m.

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Things To Do With Kids in Keith County -

Keith County is filled with family vacation experiences that kids will remember for a lifetime!

#1  Build Sandcastles

Lake McConaughy was constructed on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills, and its soft white sand rivals the Caribbean.  Kids can spend hours having fun making castles with just a bucket and spade.  Lake Mac also hosts a great annual sand sculpture event, Kites and Castles, the last Saturday in July.  The 2021 date is July 31, and teams and individuals can compete in multiple categories.
Planning Tip:  Be sure to bring sunscreen, lots of water, and a way to provide shade.

#2 Take ‘Em Fishing

Introducing kids to fishing is a great way to spend quality time, and may be the beginning of a lifelong hobby.  Bank fishing success varies from month to month, but some places to try in early summer include:  Diver’s Bay for smallmouth bass, the west of the lake near Otter Creek for bass or catfish, the shallows of Martin Bay for walleye (although success is more likely in late spring here),

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Keith County In Bloom -

Keith County is blooming, and you belong among the wildflowers!  From the spiderwort and other native plants visible around Lake McConaughy to the blossoms that spring up on the prairie hillside at Ogallala’s historic Boot Hill Cemetery, you’ll find color and variety from spring through autumn.




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Tips For Safe Boating -

When the lake looks like this – you should be off the water!

National Safe Boating Week (May 22-28, 2021) is a good time to review some tips that will help keep you safe at Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala.

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Storms can pop up VERY quickly in Nebraska.  Check the weather in advance and monitor it during the day.  Be ready to head for shore and take shelter when storm clouds start to gather. A reminder from Keith County Emergency Management: anyone may sign up to receive local weather alerts from CodeRED, a FREE emergency notification system: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/BF7D2D0CF0FD
  • Don’t operate the boat under the influence of alcohol. Boating Under the Influence is a criminal violation and is enforced actively.
  • Have a life jacket for each person on board (children under 13 must wear one).  Life jackets save lives!
  • Make sure the legal boating operator has completed the Nebraska boating safety course if necessary.

Please don’t take water safety for granted.  The Keith County Visitors Committee wants you to have a safe and enjoyable visit to our beautiful lakes. 

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Starting this summer, campers will need a reservation to stay overnight at Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala state recreation areas during the peak season. This includes all campgrounds AND beach camping areas at the two SRAs. All overnight visitors should check occupancy and book an overnight campsite on the reservation system before departing home. The reservation season for 2021 is May 21 to September 12. The new system went in place to accept reservations starting April 21. Overnight campers with a valid reservation are highly encouraged to arrive and check in with park staff, in-person, at the Visitor Center or a staffed entrance booth between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Mountain Time. The state recreation areas will remain open for day use at designated areas with no capacity limits. Reservations made prior to April 21 will be honored. There are 3 ways to make a reservation: • Online at NebraskaStateParks.ReserveAmerica.com • Download the ‘RA Camping’ app for iOS or Android

• Call the park office during business hours: 308-284-8800

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Fall Hunting In Keith County -

Our wild turkeys are calling!

Nebraska offers some of the best turkey hunting opportunities in the entire country, plus affordable hunting permits, long seasons, great public access and $8 permits for youth.  The Lake McConaughy/Keith County area is a longtime favorite with hunters for its scenic beauty and abundance of game. Fall turkey season is open through Jan. 31.

Archery deer season is open through Dec. 31.  Waterfowl blinds are available for rent at Clear Creek Management Area.  Check here for all game and waterfowl season info.

Fall fishing opportunities include walleye and bass at Lake McConaughy, and trout at Keystone Canal and Lake Ogallala.

Hotel rooms are available just off I-80 at Ogallala, and some lake lodges stay open in the fall. Electricity is left on at the Lake McConaughy SRA’s public campgrounds year round.

Any hunting in the Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area must be done at least 100 yards away from park infrastructure such as campgrounds and roads.  Download the Nebraska Public Access Atlas here,

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Bird Watching -

Due to its incredible species diversity and location on cental flyways, Lake Mac is known as a birdwatching hotspot. Bald eagles are among the lake area’s most notable winter stars, but there are many other winter visitors and permanent residents. Winter visitant species include  purple finch, California gull, common redpoll, cedar waxwing, snow bunting  and ring-necked duck. Year round avian residents include northern cardinal, American kestral, black-capped chickadee and downy woodpecker. Check the Lake McConaughy Birding Trails Map and Bird Species Checklist to plan your birding trip.

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Holiday Gift Ideas From Keith County -

Need some ideas for your favorite Lake McConaughy/Keith County  fan?

  1. A gift certificate to stay in Keith County.  Check our list of lake lodging or hotels in nearby Ogallala and Paxton, and ask if they offer gift certificates.
  2.  A gift certificate to a Lake McConaughy or Keith County restaurant.  Check with the restaurants to ask about certificates.
  3.  Some Lake McConaughy swag. Many local businesses carry Lake Mac souvenirs.
  4. A Nebraska park entry permit from Nebraska Game & Parks.  Available at the Lake McConaughy Visitor & Water Interpretive Center, many local businesses, and online.  
  5. A trip with a Lake McConaughy fishing guide.  Check the list of guides here and contact them for information on gift certificates.
  6. A local product from the Keith County area.  Check out locally grown aronia berry products from Good Berry Farms or locally crafted Ogallala Bay Rum aftershave. Scroll through the gallery and explore the links on ilovelakemac.com for more ideas.
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Adopt A Beach at Lake Mac -

Want to show the beautiful beaches of Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala some love?   Volunteer to help keep them litter free through the new Adopt-a-Beach program.

This volunteer program was created by Lake McConaughy state recreation area staff, in part, as a response to public concerns regarding litter in those areas. Game and Parks has taken several steps to combat this issue, including new signage relating to litter prevention, increases in garbage collection points and servicing, as well as partnerships with Keep Keith County Beautiful for the placement of recycle stations throughout the parks.

The goal of Adopt-a-Beach is to encourage participation in the protection of fragile park landscapes so that future generations can continue to enjoy this area. The program was modeled after the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway Program.

Participants can enroll in the program starting June 11 at the Lake McConaughy Visitor and Water Interpretive Center. Beach area assignments will be based on a group’s request and number of participants. Assignments will be made on a first-come basis. Gloves, pickers, buckets, bags and vests can be provided to participants during business hours.

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Winter Bird Watching -

Due to its incredible species diversity and location on cental flyways, Lake Mac is known as a birdwatching hotspot.  Bald eagles are among the lake area’s most notable winter stars, but there are many other winter visitors and permanent residents.   Winter visitant species include  purple finch, California gull, common redpoll, cedar waxwing, snow bunting  and ring-necked duck.   Year round avian residents include northern cardinal, American kestral, black-capped chickadee and downy woodpecker.  Check the Lake McConaughy Birding Trails Map and Bird Species Checklist to plan your birding trip.  Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District provides a heated eagle viewing facility that is open weekends January 7 through early March.  Check our calendar for hours.

(photo credit:  California Gull by Joel Jorgansen, Nebraska Game & Parks)

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Things To Do With Kids This Summer Around Keith County -

The Front Street Crystal Palace Revue
Did you toss back a sarsaparilla and take your oath as an honorary Ogallala deputy as a kid? Now your kids can get sworn in, too. (They’ll still have to promise to change their underwear at least once a week!) Using music and a little humor, the show tells a story of the Old West when cowboys brought cattle to Ogallala.  A western Nebraska institution, the Crystal Palace Revue is the longest running summer stock theatre in the state.  Shows run Memorial Day weekend to Mid-August: Wednesday through Saturday with the gunfight at 7:15 pm and the show at 7:30 pm. Call 308-284-6000 for reservations.

Mansion on the Hill Museum
What did a child’s bedroom look like in the 1890s? What was it like to attend school in a one room schoolhouse? The kids will have a fun and informative trip to yesteryear. Ogallala’s authentic Victorian mansion and grounds are open to the public through the Sunday before Labor Day, Tuesday through Saturday 9:00-4:00, Sundays 11:00-4:00, and closed Mondays. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

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Calendar of Events

2:00 pm Western History Lecture Series @...
Western History Lecture Series @...
Jul 28 @ 2:00 pm
Western History Lecture Series @ the Library
The public is invited to free Western History programs held on the following Wednesday afternoons at the Kathleen Lute Public Library, 610 West A in Ogallala.   These interesting and entertaining programs recount history through stories,[...]
all-day Kites and Castles
Kites and Castles
Jul 31 all-day
The 2021 Kites and Castles will  be held  Saturday, July 31 at Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area. Register your team or learn more at www.kitesandcastles.com! Activity Schedule: 11:00 am: Registration begins at the Martin Bay[...]
all-day Ogallala Round-Up Rodeo
Ogallala Round-Up Rodeo
Jul 31 – Aug 1 all-day
Ogallala Round-Up Rodeo
Contact: Steve Krause (308)289-0285
8:00 am Ogallala Farmer’s Market
Ogallala Farmer’s Market
Jul 31 @ 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
The Ogallala Farmer’s Market will be held Saturdays at Rendezvous Square from June 19 through September 25, 2021.  Find something different every week – including locally raised vegetables, fruits, baked goods, honey, preserves and crafts.