In the very heart of America lies Nebraska, an often-underrated state filled with possibilities. Vast, flat, endless prairies cover most of the state, but that doesn’t mean camping in Nebraska is lacking whatsoever. To the contrary, this “nice” state offers a wealth of activities–some of which you might not expect to find in a Midwestern state. After finding camping in Nebraska, you can also kayak and canoe, jet ski and windsurf, fish and hike.
Some of Nebraska’s most popular camping spots can be found near Lake McConaughy. As the largest reservoir in the state, this lake is a state recreation area that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Beautiful sand beaches line its shores, while the calm water invites you to come kayaking, jet skiing, and even scuba diving. In terms of camping in Nebraska, it doesn’t get much better than Lake McConaughy. Simply pitch your tent right on the beach and enjoy.
Nebraska also has its fair share of historic, archaeological, pioneer, and Native American sites. Consider camping near Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park or Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, both locations where you can easily pick up shark teeth and ancient fossils.
Another unbeatable attractions is Scotts Bluff National Monument. Home to marvelous rock formations high above the Platte River, the landmark is an important monument to Native Americans and settlers who have crossed the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. After appreciating the beauty of Scotts Bluff, make your way to Chimney Rock in Bayard. This remarkable rock spire is one of Nebraska’s main natural attractions and historical sites, having played an important role in both Native American and pioneering history.
There is no shortage of activities to enjoy in Nebraska. Lace up your boots for a hike at the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area, go boating on the beautiful Niobrara River, or drive the highlight-filled Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. Camping in Nebraska is an experience different from any other, thanks to small crowds and big views.
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Area Five campground is a little camping loop tucked away from the main Area three camp site across the lake, there are many lake front camping spots with fire pits and picknic tables at each spot.
There is no paved pads however you can park anywhere on the grass and make it home with a pull behind or rv, or simply set up a tent as you like.
The lake itself was full of birds and a cool view of old landscape that the water has overtaken.
I went a a particular windy weekend and was still able to find a spot with enough trees to act as a wind block.
There is a paper fee station at the entrance which was $16 per night, they also sell daily resident and non resident park passes for an additional fee for each night of stay.
The bad: Restrooms are pretty bad, plywood floors with a drop pit toilet. (Bring your own toilet paper for the restrooms on site didnt have any) spider Webb's and age have taken over.
Other than that, if your looking for a more rustic camping experience with no power on site and lots of nature this isn't a bad primitive camping spot.
When reviewing this campground it is important that I preface anything with a note about the campground condition. This entire area has been inundated with flooding off and on since March 2019. This review is taking these issues into accord and basing the review on the areas that have been repaired in the park since the flooding.
When entering the park you will notice some areas that still show signs of being impacted by the historic flooding this year. The road was completely wiped out during the flooding, but due to some intense work the road was replaced to the campground.
At the park entrance there is a park office to purchase park permits for either day use or for the season. A yearly in-state park permit is $31 and a daily is $6 per day. You will also notice another building at the entrance that during the active season (April-September) is the concession stand. They have a decent spread of options to purchase like drinks, firewood, bait, etc., but you are better off price wise bringing your own supplies to save money.
Just past the entrance you will see a row of 10 former Union Pacific Cabooses that in lieu of actual cabins can be rented for a nights stay. They have restrooms, a deck, beds, etc. , but you do need to bring your own bedding when staying in a caboose. These can be rented for $75 per night. One unfortunate part of the caboose rentals is there are no pets allowed when renting.
There are multiple lakes within the campground to use for fishing. During peak season these lakes are often overly packed-in with people trying to catch something. Lake number 5 is popular for Trout fishing. During normal years that aren't heavily impacted by flooding you can also do some river fishing on the Platte River. Due to the flooding this year though, access to anything by the river is closed due to the area being a mess and some areas undermined by the water that sat for months.
Two Rivers SRA provides tent and RV camping, but again due to the flooding this year a couple of the more popular areas are closed for significant repairs. One of the busy areas for RV camping and where we stayed was the Lakeside Campground. With it being off-season it wasn't too busy but there were close to a dozen campers there over the weekend. RV camping can be done for $25-$35 per night at Two Rivers SRA. The more expensive "Full Hook-up" is actually only water and power. There are no sewer hook-ups that I have ever seen for our multiple stays. Since it is off-season the dump station is closed for your post camping routine. There is a Love's Travel Stop about 5 miles away where you can dump for $5. While the primary water is shutoff as well this time of year, there are multiple Iowa hydrants that are still available for filling the holding tanks.
Tent campers can use any of the open spots at any of the campgrounds, but if you are using a spot with power it runs $15 per night. The normal primitive campground is closed from the flooding, but when open it runs $10 per night.
Two Rivers SRA also offers Horse Camping for those that want to bring their horses out and do some trail riding. This has been closed all season due to the flooding, but when open there are usually 3-4 groups that bring their horses in for trail riding and camping, so it is pretty popular.
**All off-season camping is $5 off the normal rate with exception of primitive sites.
The campground has multiple vault toilets throughout the campground and a few new full service bathrooms/shower houses, that double as shelters during Tornado season. These fully concrete facilities have been built in the last couple years and are still in really good shape.
The campground areas that are open have been rehabilitated pretty well since the flooding. They are fairly clean and maintained, about the only real issues are the presence of more sand from the flooding and some roads that need attention.
Pheasants Forever also has a wildlife preserve within the campground. The organization maintains the grounds as a habitat and also performs hunts here throughout the year. When it is not being used for hunting, it is a really nice area to go for a hike and see some wildlife.
Unfortunately due to the flooding a lot of the areas along the banks of the Platte River that are usually used for hiking cannot be accessed. There is some danger involved with trying to get to some of these areas due to the conditions post-flood. You can still hike around the rest of the park using the roads, or even take your bikes out for some fun riding.
The area has really been impacted by the historic flooding, but they are really doing everything they can to bring the area back to what it was before the flooding. Take the time to stop out and if you do, offer a hand at helping to clean-up!
Product Review of HeadSpin Light System:
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I am offered the chance to test from time-to-time. On this camp out I was provided with the chance to test the new HeadSpin Light System. If you would like to know more about the HeadSpin Light System check out their website: www.headspinoutdoors.com
When I un-boxed this light kit with my boys we were all immediately taken aback by the options this light provided for use. The light system comes in a well designed case that houses all the components in their own foam lined spaces.
You receive the light unit itself, a handlebar mount, a head mount, a flashlight mount, and a wall charger mount. The kit also comes with a hex wrench for mounting the handlebar mount to a bike, a mini-usb charging cord, directions, and HeadSpin sticker.
The first thing we tested out was the brightness of the light while we were in the campground. We were very impressed with how bright this light is and how well it was able to show us much more of the campground than we expected based on previous headlamps we have used. The headlamp is easily adjusted for size and my boys were constantly changing the fit between each other. Adjusting the light intensity isn't too difficult either once you identify which button is used for each task. The buttons were a little awkward to identify with gloves on during the cold night when we were at the campground. I would suggest making the buttons easier to identify in some manner, possibly raising them a bit.
While I did not have my mountain bike out with us on this trip, I did identify another way to use the handlebar mount. This mounted quite well to the bottom of the grip of my trekking pole. This worked out really well when we were walking around the campground and really added just that much more functionality to the HeadSpin Light System. I do look forward to getting this mounted on my mountain bike as well and trying it out on some of the local trails.
Now for full disclosure, I have always been into different types of flash lights as it always seems as though I have a job where they are required in some way. I was really impressed with the flashlight handle for the HeadSpin Light System. It is too often when you are carrying a flashlight where you notice the grip is either too big or too small. This grip really fit in the Goldilocks arena for me and I expect to use this quite often.
When charging this light system you have the ability to use the wall plug base or the USB cable. I received this light earlier enough and I was able to use the wall plug. The light had no power when I received it and was fully charged in an hour after being plugged into the wall. In my book that is impressive, and I used it all weekend and it is still going on that charge.
I really appreciate the versatility of this light system overall and recommend it to anyone looking for a good interchangeable light setup. This works for campers, cyclists, DIY addicts, etc. This is really a great kit and I plan to use this setup for years to come. Again, to find out more about this fantastic light system check it out on their website at: www.headspinoutdoors.com
Our stay was the weekend of Oct. 26. I prefer primitive camping in secluded areas. Not the case here. Sites are small and very close together. Luckily we stayed at the end of the season so the park wasn’t very busy. We did have semi close RV neighbors and their lights at night illuminated our surroundings. It was windy that weekend so the sound of the leaves and Interstate mostly drowned out the sound of the neighbors. Another downside was how close the park is to the Interstate. Park pricing wasn’t bad and staff was friendly and professional. I picked up more trash than we created during our stay, that was unfortunate. Even the fact that someone threw out plastic flower pots, there are dumpsters close by. SMH.
When you pull off at Paxton Nebraska, there is a campground with 12 full hook ups next to the gas station(the Lodge). There is a car wash and hotel there too. The Rv sites are pull thru so easy to park. Each site is spacious with a BBQ grill but no fire rings or picnic tables. You register at the hotel and sites are $22/ night and include cable. If you are tired and need a place to pull over this area serves its purpose.