Dive In -The Lake Mac Blog

All (Birding) Trails Lead to Keith County! -

Ogallala and Keith County are known for their location at the intersection of several historic trails.  After all, this is where the east/west Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail, and the first transcontinental railroad met up with the Texas/Great Western Cattle Trail that came north from Texas beginning in the 1870s.

But did you know that bird trails also overlap here?  According to Olivia DaRugna, watchable wildlife biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, eastern and western varieties of birds love to meet at Lake McConaughy, the state’s largest reservoir. “It’s a big body of water in the middle of the prairie, so you’re going to get rarities from the east and west making an appearance,” DaRugna says. The lake usually provides some open water all winter long, which concentrates a large number of species in one area.

The Lake Mac area boasts the largest bird list of any location in the state, including about 340 species, with at least 104 known breeders, and about 200 transients.

In the fall, DaRugna says birdwatchers may spot unusual gulls at the lake,

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Fall Vibes in Keith County! -

Fall is here and Keith County, Nebraska is the perfect place to plan a cozy weekend getaway.   Book a room at one of our hotels conveniently located just off I-80, or check out the lodges and cabins that stay open all year.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS
Nestled on the edge of the beautiful Nebraska Sandhills, Keith County contains two Nebraska State Recreation Areas: Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala.  All camping at the SRAs is first-come, first-served until May 20, 2023, the beginning of peak season.  There are also many local private campgrounds available.

Leashed dogs are welcome at the lakes, so it’s an ideal outing with your four-legged besties.  Miles and miles of sandy shoreline are available for hiking and fat-tire biking.  Lower water levels in 2022 have exposed interesting geographic and historic features for beachcombers. The lakes are also a favorite for kayakers, paddleboarders and canoeists.

BIRDWATCHING
Our location on the Central Flyway and proximity to large bodies of water add up to ideal conditions for birds in Keith County. 

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Halloween in the Hollow -

The public is invited to visit Ash Hollow State Historical Park & celebrate Halloween in the Hollow with the ghosts of the Oregon Trail on Saturday, Oct. 22 from 2-6 p.m. Mountain Time.

Enjoy kid’s games, s’mores, pumpkin picking & decorating, scavenger hunt, hay rack rides and a costume contest. The costume contest starts at 4:30 p.m.

5 p.m. — TRUNK OR TREAT, sponsored by NGPC conservation officers, area EMS and law enforcement. Vehicles, ambulances, cruisers and fire rigs will be there throughout the event for kids to look at!

For event questions, call the park at (308) 778-7708 or email tamara.cooper@nebraska.gov.

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Rendezvous 2022 -

The Ogallala Indian Summer Rendezvous means great bands, great food and great fun!  Ogallala’s annual fall celebration is September 15-17 downtown at Rendezvous Square. Family event passes are $40 and adult day passes are $20. Contact the Keith County Chamber for more info at 308-284-4066.
FULL SCHEDULE HERE!

Live music throughout the event, including 8:00 p.m. shows:
Friday:  Innocence
Saturday: West Wind Band

There’s plenty to see and do all over town. If you missed visiting Ogallala’s beautiful Mansion on the Hill museum during the regular season, you’re in luck.  The Mansion AND the Petrified Wood & Art Gallery are open to visitors all three days of the Rendezvous: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Mansion and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Gallery.

Enjoy more heritage from yesteryear at the Frontier Camp, located at the Front Street parking lot Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Friend of the Library will hold their annual Rendezvous Book Sale at Kathleen Lute Public Library:
Friday –

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A “Glass Half-Full Look” -


As a reservoir constructed in the late 1930s to supply irrigation water to farmers, Lake McConaughy has experienced cyclic ups and downs throughout its history.

The lake is currently at 3,222.7 feet elevation or 42.3% of capacity.* A number of factors have influenced the water level, including a hotter and dryer-than-average summer with high irrigation demand downstream, and below-average snowpack in the mountains upstream of the lake.

It’s worth noting that with 737,200 acre-feet of water, Lake McConaughy is STILL the largest reservoir in the entire Nebraska/Kansas/Colorado region.

The lake contains the equivalent of 737,200 entire football fields covered with water a foot deep. It’s still at least 100 feet deep at its deepest point.  That’s a lot of water!

Despite lower water levels than some years, Big Mac is still big, and there are still plenty of unique opportunities for recreation and fun in the sun.

WATERCRAFT – Boats, Personal Watercraft, Kayaks and More!
There are still 2 boat ramps in service on Lake McConaughy – Divers Bay (Burma Road) and the Martin Bay low water boat ramp near the base of Kingsley Dam.  

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Ogallala Farmers Market -

You never know what you’ll find at the Ogallala Farmer’s Market – and that’s part of the adventure!  Held on Saturdays through at least September, the market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon at Rendezvous Square in downtown Ogallala. The shady permanent canopy and wide variety of wares make for a delightful weekend experience. Grab a coffee and stroll through the market with a friend.

Is there anything better than farm-to-table produce?  Garden fresh veggies and fruits are a staple at the farmer’s market.  Locals and visitors alike line up to purchase from local growers’ harvests.

Jellies, preserves, local honey, and home baked goodies are other good reasons to get the market early.

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Kites and Castles July 30, 2022 - IMG_0224.jpg

Kites and Castles – Lake McConaughy’s longest-running event – is held annually on the last Saturday in July.

Register your team here to build a sand sculpture on the beautiful white sand beaches surrounding Nebraska’s largest lake!

Event Location: Martin Bay – look for the signs!
11:00 a.m. – Registration at the Martin Bay parking lot
NOON – Sculpting begins
4:00 p.m. – Judging begins
5:00 p.m. – Awards Presentation

Sculptors compete in 4 classes:
Kids (8 and under)
Young Adults (9-16)
Open Class
Family (All related)

Bring the family to view the incredible creations once the contest is over. Kayakers can tour the sculptures from the water at Kayak the Castles. ​ ​Call the Keith County Chamber of Commerce at 308-284-4066 for more information.  

This is a FREE event, but you will need a NE Game and Parks vehicle permit to access the beaches.

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Sounds on the Square Concert Series -

Ogallala’s annual Sounds on the Square FREE summer concert series kicks off Thursday, May 26, and continues each Thursday night in June downtown at Rendezvous Square.  The gates open at 6:00 p.m.  Food vendors will be available.  Attendees are asked to bring their own lawn chairs.

Event co-coordinator Bob Josjor says the series showcases a wide variety of talented performers from across Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming.   “We have a great lineup for Sounds On The Square 2022, including everything from a capella and gospel to R&B, country, and bluegrass,” he says.

Every concert is presented free of charge.   The 2022 lineup includes:
May 26: Gospel Night
June 2: Josh Hoyer
June 9: Rascal Martinez
June 16: Bases Loaded
June 23: West Wind Country
June 30: String Fling High Plains Tradition

Bob adds, “I love our SOS concert series. Folks come down to Rendezvous Square, enjoy some music, and visit with friends. The dance floor gets used by all, from children who can barely walk to retirees who are reliving their old barn dance days.

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Welcome to Ogallala for the End of the Trail Western Festival May 20-21! -

The best of the best roughstock rodeo competitors are coming to Ogallala, Nebraska May 20-21 for the End of the Trail Western Festival, an incredible PRCA-sanctioned rodeo event! The event includes a Calcutta, Celebrity Bartending at Driftwood Ogallala, refreshment garden, General Store, a free Youth School with Tom Reeves’ “Wild Horses Building Champions” May 18-19 and more.

It’s all happening here in the Cowboy Capitol so don’t miss out! Order tickets online at www.KeithCountyFair.com.

Watch pro cowboys like Brody Cress Professional Saddle Bronc Rider, (shown above) currently ranked #3 WORLD in saddle bronc riding.  Cress is originally from Hillsdale, WY. Also attending: Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alberta, Canada,  ranks #14 WORLD in Saddle Bronc Riding.  Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba, is #15 WORLD in Bareback Riding. Tanner Aus, who hails from Granite Falls, MN, is #9 WORLD Bareback Riding.  Dawson Hay of Wildwood, Alberta, is currently ranked #15 WORLD in Saddle Bronc Riding.   Many more pro-rodeo competitors are coming to Ogallala to try their luck.

Need a place to stay?    » Read more
Spring Turkey 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.  Turkey archery season opened March 25,  youth shotgun opens April 9, and regular shotgun opens April 16. The season doesn’t close until May 31.

You can buy permits online hereCheck here for all game and waterfowl season info.

Hotel rooms are available just off I-80 at Ogallala, and some lake lodges open before the summer season.  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, and please contact NE Game and Parks at 308-284-8800 with any questions.

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Cowboy Museum at Front Street -

Visitors come to Ogallala’s Front Street to experience a little slice of the famed Texas Trail era from approximately 1874 to 1884, when Ogallala was known as the town “too tough for Texans.”

The free museum depicts an Old West town in all its glory, from the jail cell containing memorabilia from old Ogallala’s original lock-up to the undertaker’s parlor with an authentic horse-drawn hearse.  Exhibits contain many other items from the town’s storied past.

Housed in a replica of an 1880s Old West street, the Front Street complex includes a steak house & saloon, the Cowboy Museum, and summer performances of the musical show, the Crystal Palace Revue.

Upcoming plans include the restoration of a Wells Fargo stagecoach dating to 1870 as well as a historic Union Pacific caboose.

Front Street is as unique as Ogallala itself, a town where all trails intersected in the latter part of the 19th century. The Texas Trail, one of the most traveled and famous cattle trails in U.S. history, came north to the railhead at Ogallala, intersecting with many east-west transcontinental travel routes,

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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,

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Art in Ogallala -

From bronze statues to murals, Ogallala offers an incredible array of beautiful artwork in public spaces.

“The Trail Boss” bronze atop Boot Hill is a must-see.  At home in the rugged landscape of Ogallala’s historic  cemetery, this drover faces south, looking back over the Texas Trail that brought so many drovers and herds of longhorns to town in the wild 1870s and 1880s.  “The Trail Boss” is the creation of Texas artist Robert Summers.  Ogallala’s statue was cast from the mold of the original work that is on display in Plano, TX.

Ogallala’s Post Office mural also depicts the town’s heritage as the railhead at the end of the Texas Trail. “Long Horns” by artist Frank Mechau was completed in 1938. It is an excellent example of the federally funded art projects of the 1930s that were created to provide employment during the Great Depression. Much of this artwork was created in small town post offices. The Post Office is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Artist Kate Jensen Witt has created three dynamic public murals located around her hometown of Ogallala.

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Halloween Fun in Keith County -

Don’t miss all the spook-tacular Halloween fun in Keith County on the ilovelakemac.com area calendar!

Celebrate Halloween with the ghosts of the Oregon Trail at Ash Hollow!  Nebraska Game and Parks will host the family event Halloween in the Hollow, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 at Ash Hollow State Historical Park near Lewellen from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Enjoy kids games, concessions, pumpkin decorating, a scavenger hunt, costume contests, gourmet s’mores pit, Trunk or Treat and more!

1:00 p.m. Costume Contest
2:00 p.m. Trunk or Treat (sponsored by NGPC conservation officers, area EMS and law enforcement)
Noon to 3 p.m. Visitor Center/Museum open

$1 admission per person to the event. Valid vehicle permit required.
Please call the park at 308-778-7708 with questions or email tamara.cooper@nebraska.gov.

Halloween at the Library
Thursday, October 28, 2021 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Wear a costume and come to the Kathleen Lute Public Library  in Ogallala for game and treats Thursday, Oct. 28 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Halloween Costume Parade + Trunk or Treat in Ogallala
Friday,

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A Fun Fall Afternoon -

fall scenery

Looking for a fun fall afternoon?  Grab some coffee, take a look at the changing fall colors, and shop for antiques in Keith County!   Whether you start in Paxton or Ogallala, the Nebraska Lincoln HW Historic Byway/Highway 30 offers a chance to slow down a bit and enjoy the foliage along the South Platte.

Antique and vintage stores include: 
Anne Marie’s in Paxton (located between HW 30 and I-80)
J Dawg’s Junk and Embroidery (located south of the interstate at Ogallala. Go to the East Entrance of the TA Truck Stop, Turn south on gravel, go 1/2 blk turn left.)

Local Coffee Shops include:
The Grainery, Paxton
Night Train Coffee Co, Ogallala
Scooter’s, Ogallala
Slow Lane Coffee, Ogallala

Check out the list of Keith County restaurants and eateries here.
Check the links or call ahead for individual business hours.

Enjoy your fun fall afternoon of leaf-watching and shopping in Keith County!


(Anne Marie’s,

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Fall Fishing -

Fall fishing is in full swing at Lake McConaughy, with many anglers targeting walleye, the signature game fish at Nebraska’s “big lake.” They are typically fishing in deeper (20-50 feet) of water, using slab spoons, blade baits and vertical jigging in the coves around the Ogallala Beach and Lakeview areas of the south side and from Lemoyne back to Arthur Bay on the north side. There has also been some walleye success on an early morning and late evening bite on the southeast rocky points, casing cranks and spinnerbaits. Smallmouth anglers are still finding good numbers and excellent sizes along the southeast rocky points during the mid-morning period, throwing a number of bass rigs, but with particular success with Ned Rigs and spinnerbaits. Catfish are still being caught at a number of areas, but most anglers have been targeting the west end of the reservoir. Bank anglers have had good luck in the Spillway and Diver’s Bay areas, casting a number of jigs and baits from shore for walleye, catfish and smallmouth bass. With lower water levels, most of the areas will involve a decent walk.  » Read more
Humphreys Pond, Ogallala -

Rainbow trout are being stocked in city ponds and state park and recreation area lakes across the state this week, including Humphreys Pond in Ogallala. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) will stock 600 trout at the small pond on East Highway 30 the week of October 4, 2021.

These stockings will enhance fishing opportunities this fall and winter, especially for young families and less experienced anglers.

The Ogallala Optimist Club helped lead a restoration project at Humphreys Pond that was completed in 2009. They continue to maintain the pond area, which includes native trees and shrubs, sheltered picnic tables, and two small barbecues.

Fishing for trout is a great way to introduce children to fishing because simple and inexpensive equipment may be used. A spinning or spin-cast rod and reel with a hook baited with a worm will work well. Add a split shot a couple of feet above the hook and a bobber a couple of feet above the split shot. Spinners, salmon eggs, dough baits and artificial flies also can catch trout.

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Kayaking in Keith County -

The Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala State Recreation Areas are year-round favorites with kayakers and canoeists for good reason!

Paddlesports offer an ideal way to slow down and experience the area’s incredible natural beauty from the water. Taking weather conditions and appropriate safety precautions into account, kayaking can be enjoyed in all four seasons in Keith County.

Few people are more enthusiastic about kayaking than Ogallala native Travis Byers. To date, Byers has kayaked every month of the year for 78 consecutive months.  He even paddled to his own wedding on the shores of Lake McConaughy.  He says, “Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala have got to be two of my favorite places to kayak.” His Facebook page, AlwaysKayak, documents his adventures.  Keen to share his love of the sport with others, Byers is now an American Canoe Association (ACA) certified instructor. He says, “I really enjoy helping others and getting them out on the water in a safe environment. I love to see people smile.”

What are some tips for beginners?  Byers says it’s important to keep safety top of mind.

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Ogallala Indian Summer Rendezvous -

The Ogallala Indian Summer Rendezvous means great bands, great food and great fun!  Ogallala’s annual fall celebration is September 16-18, 2021 downtown at Rendezvous Square. Family event passes are $40 and adult day passes are $20. Contact the Keith County Chamber for more info at 308-284-4066.

Live music nightly at 8:30 p.m.:
Thursday:  Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal
Friday:  32 Below
Saturday: Dirty Word

There’s plenty to see and do all over town. If you missed visiting Ogallala’s beautiful Mansion on the Hill museum during the regular season, you’re in luck.  The Mansion AND the Petrified Wood & Art Gallery are open to visitors all three days of the Rendezvous from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Enjoy more heritage from yesteryear at the Frontier Camp, located at the Front Street parking lot Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Friend of the Library will hold their annual Rendezvous Book Sale at Kathleen Lute Public Library:
Thursday – 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

 » Read more
Ash Hollow Rendezvous -

Ash Hollow State Historical Park is celebrating 100 years of Nebraska Parks with the Ash Hollow Rendezvous. The event will be held Sept. 10-12 near Lewellen, with the gates opening Friday at 9:00 a.m.

Ash Hollow superintendent Tamara Cooper says, “A rendezvous, historically held in the fall between fur traders and local Native American tribes, was traditionally a time to gather, share trade goods such as skins, furs, beads, food items, weapons and knowledge.  It was a time to relax, make money and have some fun.”

Guests to the Rendezvous can expect to see demonstrations of black powder shooting, tomahawk throwing, recurve bow and arrow shooting, open fire cooking, trap setting, canoeing, as well as traders row.  Many of the trade goods are made by hand, in the traditional way.  Wooden spoons, leather goods, hide tanning and other craftsmanship will be on full display and also for sale.

Cowboy poet and singer/songwriter John Horton will be preforming throughout the day for guests as they walk through traders row or stop at locations to learn more about the fur trader era.

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Ogallala Farmer’s Market -

You never know what you’ll find at the Ogallala Farmer’s Market – and that’s part of the adventure!  Held on Saturdays through at least September, the market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon at Rendezvous Square in downtown Ogallala. The shady permanent canopy and wide variety of wares make for a delightful weekend experience. Grab a coffee and stroll through the market with a friend.

Is there anything better than farm-to-table produce?  Garden fresh veggies and fruits are a staple at the farmer’s market.  Locals and visitors alike line up to purchase from local growers’ harvests.

Fresh cut flowers and plants like these beautiful succulents make an appearance, too.

Jellies, preserves, local honey, and home baked goodies are other good reasons to get the market early. You may also find regional small batch micro roasted coffee.

Need a special gift for someone?  Pursue the selection of truly unique items, like handmade soaps and lotions, jewelry, and crafts.

 

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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 annual rodeo  dates back as early as 1916, but Ogallala’s history is rooted in the open range cattle drive days of the 1870s 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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CAMPING UPDATE FROM NEBRASKA GAME AND PARKS: - Click here for “KNOW BEFORE YOU GO” information
Para español, haga clic aquí “INFORMESE ANTES DE IR”
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

QUESTIONS?  » Read more
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 usually open after the holidays through late February.  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

Dec
1
Thu
5:30 pm Parade of Lights
Parade of Lights
Dec 1 @ 5:30 pm
Parade of Lights
The annual Parade of Lights will be held Thursday, Dec. 1 in downtown Ogallala. Parade step-off is at 5:30 p.m. Please contact the Keith County Chamber of Commerce for more information at 308-284-4066.
Dec
10
Sat
10:00 am Santa at the Lake Mac Visitors C...
Santa at the Lake Mac Visitors C...
Dec 10 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Santa at the Lake Mac Visitors Center
Kids are invited to meet Santa at the Lake McConaughy Visitors Center on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  There will be a showing of The Polar Express at 10:00 a.m. and[...]