Conestoga SRA is an increasingly popular campground following major renovations that were completed in 2018. Improvements to the picnic tables, restrooms, added shelter area and most importantly a complete overhaul of the lake have made this a much improved campground. Conestoga is entirely walk up with no reservations. You can easily self register at the park entrance and a second location closer to the lake centrally located between two of the three camping areas. A pack in primitive campground was also added to the lake and is accessible via a gravel hiking path. Fishing for mature fish will not be possible until 2021 according to Nebraska game and parks. I did see plentiful immature fish while kayaking the lake in June of 2019. The lake was complete dredged out and the parks commission added several silt pond around the lake to capture silt run off. This should keep this lake much cleaner than it was in the past. The park is boat and kayak friendly these days with the addition of two brand new boat ramps. By my count there were three new fishing docks going up although only one was completed during my stay. This is not relatively quite campground but it is popular. Kids can ride their bikes all around the paved and gravel rounds throughout the camp. The sites in the row on the side of site 50 are huge. We enjoyed spreading our stuff out with multiple tents and played games in the large open space. Shade is limited over a good 1/3 of the powered sites. The primitive site closer to the lake is well shaded with mature trees. There was a camp host who made sure we knew where the storm shelter was on the night of our stay. We nearly needed to use it as we experienced a severe thunder storm. There are 25 camp pads offering 20-30–50 amp hook ups and another 8 non electric pad sites. There is a dump station and several vaulted, well maintained toilet houses. Water is also available. If you plan on boating there is a 5mph speed limit so this is more of a canoe or kayaking lake or just for fishing. I highly recommend this SRA close to Lincoln Nebraska
Davis creek is a 67 camp site (25 primitive/2 ADA, 42 electric/3 ADA) nestled in rolling hills of Valley county Nebraska on the Davis Creek reservoir. Camping is permitted year round although water is only available April 1 to November 30th. There is also a camp host in the RV section from April-Nov. There are no established trails for hiking but the gravel roads throughout the camp are used for walking and bike riding.
This is a lake and campground that went from very primitive just over 20 years ago to a top notch natural resource district campground and recreation area. The NRD is investing heavily in this campground with large shelters, shower house (bring quarters), 2 boat ramp areas, large fish cleaning station, ADA ramps, fishing docks, and a small swimming beach. The rumor from the locals is that the entire campground will be electric in the near future. I was really impressed to find free WiFi added in 2019! The WiFi was strong and reliable everywhere in the campground.
I camped on site 72 which is an electrical site capable of facilitating smaller RV’s, campers or tents. Site 72 was near water, a brick restroom building and the shower building. You’ll be hard pressed to find any adequate shade at any of the sites here although the row of 60’s will offer some late day/evening shade. All of the sites have very nice concrete pads with large fire rings with grilling grates in addition to large concrete pads with picnic tables. There is plenty of green space at most sites and at 72 we set up horseshoe stakes and had all the room we needed.
The lake: we took our kayaks out and did some fishing on this campout. Access to the lake is easy with nice wide boat ramps at two different let in’s. This is a popular fishing and water sport lake that does allow skiing and high speed water sports. If you like to fish I recommend going to the inlet a couple of miles North of the campground, it seems to be the most popular spot for on water and shore-line fishing. We trolled lines behind our kayaks and caught white bass on this Memorial Day weekend in 2019.
ADA site: There was a really nicely designed ADA site next to site 72 that I think is worth mentioning here. The site was flat with a concrete path that connected the site to the walking path to the restrooms. The fire ring and picnic table were also designed for those wheelchair bound. I’ve attached some pictures below. If you have disabilities you’ll have access to everything you need at this campground.
I had the please of staying at this beautiful Nebraska state park with my youngest son on a return trip home from North Dakota over the July 4th weekend 2019. We pulled in after office ours and easily found several primitive walk up sites to choose from. We selected T45 for it’s proximity to a scenic Missouri River overlook and it’s flat, shaded ground. Ponca SP is a large clean and hilly state park offering just about everything you could want from Glamping in cabins to roughing it on one of several pack in trails. There is plentiful wildlife to observe. We witnessed deer and many species of birds in our one evening and morning stay. Guests to the park can partake in horse trail rides($), golf($), fishing, hunting, shooting/ archery range, biking/hiking, water activities such as kayaking or canoeing on the Missouri River, and a large pool near the entrance. Food service is also available on site if you get tired of cooking at your camp. If you want a power site for an RV I’d highly recommend reserving well in advance because this is a popular SP. For those of us who tent camp without power you’ll likely find the perfect spot for your small to large tent on a walk up site with plentiful shade trees at all of the sites that I observed. I highly recommend trying to get the site one spot to the North of T45, it literally looks right over the Missouri River and sits just steps away from the scenic overlook. The bathroom facility right by T45 was clean and well maintained and there was a water faucet next to this site as well as the trash bins. Scenic hikes, drives, or bike rides around the park are largely shaded with a rich tree canopy over rolling hills throughout the park. There are at least two scenic river overlooks with historical referenced to the area’s rich history including the Lewis and Clark expedition. Check the park’s web site at outdoornebraska.gov/Ponca/ to find out what educational and fun events might be happening at the park. They hold a Harvest/Halloween event over a few days in October each year, but you’ll have to book a site a year in advance if you want to for sure get a spot during that time. Don’t forget to stop in to the education center and learn all about the river’s history. The education center is top notch and one of our favorite things about the park. This is a five star state park by any measure and I can’t wait for a return trip to this park.
Located in the Northwest corner of the Nebraska panhandle this 98 year old state park has it all for a great family get-away of road tripping stop. Chadron State park offers 70 electric and 18 primitive camping sites. The bulk of the primitive sites are walk up so be sure to get there early for the sites that have the best shade trees. There are a few non-reservable electric sites but to be safe I’d book online well in advance or call ahead. You can also book cabins at this park and during my stay the cabins looked to be entirely in use. Enjoy miles of hiking and mountain biking trails that range from level to steep inclines through rouged terrain. Activities such as swimming in the well maintained pool, horse back riding have extra fees which are reasonable. There is a great fishing pond and several playgrounds scattered throughout the park. If you plan on horseback riding, and you should it was the highlight of our trip, tours begin at 9am and leave every hour except noon until 3pm. I recommend the 9am or 10am ride to avoid the heat. You register at the visitor center located at the front of the park for this 45 min guided ride. Other features of this park include an archery range, paddle boats, tennis, horseshoe pits, sand volleyballs and outdoor events (check the Nebraska state parks calendar).
On this multi family campout we had 8 kids with us and 6 adults. We camped in sites 16 and 14 which are electric sites. We chose these sites for the plentiful shade trees and proximity to the water pump and the shower building. The sites are deep and mostly flat. We had a little tent city going with large tents and we all found level, shaded ground.
Observations: the grounds are well kept with regular rounds from camp hosts and park staff to check trash and make sure the guests are happy. If you are hoping for some downed wood for fire you’ll be out of luck at this park. You can bring in local wood and find wood for purchase on site and in nearby Chadron just a 12 minute drive North of the park. You may want to bring your bike to the park. Most of the attractions are a quick although hilly ride from the campsite. I would like to see walking and riding paths separate from the roads at this park. When driving be on the look out for pedestrians and bike riders on the road. This was a quite campground with many short stay visitors during our stay. Quite hours start at 10pm and end at 8am. I have to say were were easily the loudest group a bit in violation of the 10pm quite time as we played games around the campfire but we were not visited by any neighbors or the camp host. If you are a fan of view spectacular night skies this a a great park. You can see brilliant stars, planets and the Milky Way. On hikes you’ll see sandstone buttes and valleys. We also saw many bird species and more woodpeckers than I’ve seen in any other location. You’ll also see white tail and mule deer around the park. The camp host told us that in the fall you can observe big horn sheep in the area. On your hike bring binoculars and enjoy a peak at the black hills of South Dakota.
The visitor center offers camping essentials you may have lost of forgotten, souvenirs, ice, wood and a vending machine. You can also visit the trading post on site and order from a small menu of breakfast and lunch/dinner items.
Nearby Chadron State park you can visit the Nebraska state forest and grasslands, Agate fossil beds, fur trading museum, Box Butte state recreation area/lake, Black Hills of South Dakota, and Fort Robinson state park. All in all this is a must see state park for a short or long stay with family, friends, or a solo trip. 5 stars in my book.
Ranger Review, Wenzel Portico 6 tent:
As a ranger for The Dyrt I have the opportunity from time to time to review camping products. I was fortunate to be able to review the Wenzel Portico 6 tent on this multifamily 3 night, 2 day campout.
The Portico 6 is a 74” heigh dome style tent using 3 lightweight shock corded poles. The footprint is 10’x9’ and advertised as a 6 person tent. I’d cut that in half for occupancy in reality. I’m 6’2” and my sons are 6’ and 5’6”. I’d say with sleeping bags and a couple of back packs we would consume the entire floor space. We tested this tent with 2 cots and two 12 year old boys for 3 nights. The tent was intuitive and easy to set up from the box without looking at directions. Total set up time was roughly 17 minutes from initial unboxing to completion. This is definitely a two person job in order to get the poles upright but not difficult. The Portico has some great highlights including a dry entry awning although a bit short, plastic pole holders at the corners, and a large D shape entry. The door zipper worked very well with no snagging which was a very pleasant thing as tents go. The Portico also has 3 very useful storage pockets on the outside of the tent. The boys used the pockets to hang their wet swim trunks. I can see these pockets being useful for storage of bug spray, sun screen and other like items. It is curious why the storage pockets aren’t located on the inside of the ten however where I can see them being more useful. There is ample head room in the tent and with the rain fly off the tent if very breathable while offering a view of the sky. There is good privacy with the mesh starting a bit higher on the tent which I think is a great feature. You’ll also enjoy the pre-attached guy lines on the rainfly. Speaking of the rainfly, this may be the tent’s best feature. We did see a good amount of rain during this campout with a long lasting low wind thunderstorm. The rainfly held up great and keep the boys dry the hole time.
Before I go in to the concerns it should be noted that this is not a tent designed for outback and rouged camping. This is a tent for the back yard or well established camp sites. If that is where you keep this tent then I think you’ll really enjoy the tent for a long time. Potential concerns come from the light weight fiberglass poles, thin floor, plastic pole holder corners and plastic tent stakes. We layed down a second tarp in the tent and used cot foot prints to help protect the floor. I’d defiantly never use this tent without a good think tarp under the tent to protect from puncture. I’d upgrade the tent stakes if you plan on camping on hard ground or ground with any rocks. These yellow low end stakes will not last long. Much care is also needed when pounding in the stakes to the plastic tent pole holders. One missed swing could potentially break the corners or the stake. The awning did do it’s job keeping some small camp chairs dry but I’d like to see a bit deeper awning. The only complaint the boys had about the tent was that it didn’t move air very well with the rainfly on. The tent didn’t have any condensation in it however. All in all this is a nice backyard camping tent for a maximum of 2 people with cots or 3 people in sleeping backs with a couple of packs. It is light weight and easy to store. Set up with two people and tear down with one will take around 15 minutes both ways. Check out more here: https://wenzelco.com/portico-6/
Ranger review of Wildcat Hills SRA. If you love to hike and want to truly feel like you are away from it all check out Wildcat Hills. This beautiful recreation area just South of Gering Nebraska is just minutes away from geological wonders such as Chimney Rock, Jailhouse Rock and Scott’s Bluff National Memorial Park. Wildcat offers Archery, gun range, biking, hiking, picnicking, a playground, nature center and hunting. I’d add that if you are a bird watcher you need to get to Wildcat hills. There are also big horn sheep, wildcats, rattle snakes, elk, and deer in the area although we didn’t see any in our two days and nights at the park. There is a huge nature center that will provide a great place to cool off, stay dry or just for learning for the sake of learning. 4 main trail heads interconnect through rough, minimally maintained hiking trails that climb up to 5,000 feet. Backpack a lunch to the bottom of the canyon and try to find the Game of Thrones shelter (my pet name for it). I’ve given this park 4 stars because we were fortunate enough to camp at the group site that an area boy-scout troop updated. There are two other camp sites along the dirt road leading to the group site. Those 12 total sites are very close together and I wouldn’t recommend anything more than a pop up camper in those spots which are right on the road. If you have to camp in one of those 12 sites I’d rate the camping at 2 or 3 stars. this park hits it out of the ball park with the hiking and nature center.
Ranger review INNO INH 330 Aero Light Bike Rack
I had the opportunity to review the INNO INH 330 Aerolight QM bike rack. I have put hundreds of miles on this 2 bike rack from state parks to urban use. INNO has created a rack that is worthy of consideration among high end bike racks. The INNO arrived in a large clean and well packaged box and was nearly fully assembled. There are a number of pros and cons to be considered with this rack as with any product. I’ve listed those below.
Pros: Well made light metal and plastic construction that I believe will hold up for a very long time. Innovative locking cable for piece of mind. Fits both 1.5” and 2” receiver. Quiet ride. Exceptionally study bike securement if you don’t have attachment and you have a triangular bike frame. Protects your bike from banging into other bike like on hanging style racks.
Cons: awkward fit on height bar strap if you have a water bottle or bike tire pump attachment. If you are mounting different bikes often there a few adjustment steps that will take some time before you can secure your bike. The pins that secure the arms in the lower and upper positions can stick and require some force to pull out and place. I think some WD40 would probably resolve that issue. Bikes without the traditional triangle frame do not strap well to the veritable bar.
In the end, I’d give this rack 3.5 stars I would give it 4 if it fit my son’s non-triangle frame bike. I recommend that you consider the INNO and determine if it will fit your bikes and your needs. This rack has become my go to if I only need to take my bike or one other. Find your local retailer and try it out with your bikes.
Sorry about the oddly formatted photos. They flipped during upload.
Rocky Ford is one of many outfitter and private campground choices in stunning Northwest Nebraska on the Niorbrara River. We chose to tent camp here for it’s club house amenities and location on the river down stream from Smith Falls State Park. You’ll have close neighbors at this camp but every one is there to enjoy a float down the river and respectful of the 11pm quite time. Honestly we stayed up later than that playing music at a reasonable level and the river drowns out any noise from nearby campers. You’ll sleep like a baby with the rapids creating wonderful soothing sounds. We had beautiful sunny skies and some famous midwest thunderstorms on each of our two day, two night stays here. Be ready to get sandy here, you will be way up in the Sandhills and the 7 eccosystems in the area. There are basically minimum maintenance roads in and out of the camp so we had our fingers crossed getting out of really sloppy roads pulling a trailer with a Nissan Rogue but we made it. The club house is really close. Expect typical restroom conditions with lots of sand. You’re on a river float trip if you are staying here, not a 5 star resort. They charge $8 per person to camp but children 9 or younger are free. You must be using them for a booked float down the river to stay here. They offer many choices for how you float and for how long. They will drop you off up steam and you just get out at the camp at the end of your float. Pay attention to the bus driver for directions on the river to must see nature opportunities and where to get out at. I’d definitely stay at Rocky Ford again.
Baker Park near Minneapolis Minnesota was a our camp choice for inexpensive camping on the last leg of our Minnesota vacation in 2017. After reading a lot of Pinterest reviews I’m glad we stayed at this camp. Managed by ThreeRiversParks.org (make your reservation here) this is one of the cleanest camps I’ve ever stayed at. It was crowded with RV’s and tents alike but it never seemed loud or cramped. The shower house was very clean and roomy and an easy walk from the camp sites. We didn’t take advantage of the nearby lake or other numerous activities because we used it as a base camp for the Mall of America. You’ll need to book for at least two nights and book as soon as you can. There are 200 sites but on the July weekend we stayed, I’d say almost all of them were booked. The camp staff are very friendly and you’ll need to get checked in before 9pm I believe because they close it off to paid guests after that. The camp was pretty quite for as full as it was. I did notice that local law enforcement did patrol the camp a couple of times each night but it felt very safe to me. I’d definitely recommend this camp and the next time we stay we will check out the hiking trails, lake, and playground for sure.
This SRA about 25 minutes Southeast of Lincoln Nebraska is a favorite go to for me and my boys. Wagon Train is far enough from major roads that all you’ll hear is nature and the crackle of your fire. There are 28 pad/powered sites and 80 non powered, non pad sites for basic tent camping. If you want a sad spot reserve early. This SRA experienced a tornado a few years ago and many trees were lost. Those trees are in a pile near the non pad sites though, so claiming free fire wood is easy if you have a saw. Potable water is available and vaulted toilets are a short walk from the non powered sites. If you RV you’ll also have access to a dump station. There is a short hiking trail but nothing to write home about. Your camp sites will all have fire rings and picnic tables. I think the best part of this lake is the sand beach swimming area which is near a large covered picnic area. As with many Southeast Nebraska lakes, you can boat but there is a 5mph speed limit. If you don’t make reservations online you can show up and self register at the camp entrance. For me Wagon Train isn’t the prettiest lake in the area be a long shot but I love how quite it is and you’ll love the dark starry skies at night.
Check out Blustem if you like to get away from RV heavy camps like I do. You’ll find clean raised toilets, trails, and archery range, boating, fishing and hunting here. I camped here in early spring with my boys and another family and we had the place to ourselves. This is yet another really nice state recreation area within 20 miles of Lincoln Nebraska. Check it out.
This camp South of Lacrosse Wisconsin is a great family or road tripping camp. Goose Island has very friendly staff and a nice little camp supply store at the entrance where you can also purchase firewood in two sizes of tubes. You’ll need a way to haul the wood to your site. We tent camp so we choose nonpowered sites away from the RV’s. The website refers to the camp as being on the backwater of the Misssippi. What ever it is, it is beautiful and right on the water. Bring the bug spray for the evening becasue the mosquitoes do come out in force. The camp facilities are clean and convenient. There is a small children’s playground and a small swimming area also. The camp was relatively busy in the powered RV area but clean and quite thoughout. It looked like there were some long term RV campers by the looks of their set up. You won’t regret staying at Goose Island.
If you are looking for a place to stop for a night of for a few nights with family or traveling alone along I-80 don’t miss Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. There are challenging trails overlooking the Platte River and railroad line. Bring your camera. Visit the horseback riding area ($), water park ($), nature center, and newly added Zipline and treeline obstacle course ($$). There is a nice place to eat at the clubhouse. The staff are friendly and helpful. Cabins for rent can facilitate even large families or get togethers. Book cabins well in advance for holidays. Fishing and kayaking opportunities also exist. Visit the Marina for paddle boat rentals also. The only downside to this park is its proximity to I-80. You will hear interstate road noise at night but if you’ve camped right you will be too tired to care.
I tent camped here in March and I had the campground to myself. The parks department has been working at this campground, replacing old picnic tables with new composite material tables. Thanks for leaving the old picnic table wood at the primative sites parks department! This is a mostly quite campground but is a little close to the highway just north of the park. Conestoga is a small lake just a short walk from any of the camping spots.
I grew up in the towns next to the Davis Creek Dam which is managed by the NRD. This is a great , once upon a time small campground right on Davis Creek Dam. You’ll enjoy this campground that is far away from road noise. Supplies can be purchased in North Loup, Scotia or Ord Nebraska, roughly 6 and 16 miles way respectively. This campground gets busy over summer holidays but other than that I’ve found that you can reserve same day spots without worry, especially if you are tent camping.
Amincon is a hiking and photography dream. The staff at Amnicon are over the top friendly and helpful. Enjoy private feeling camp sites. I tent camp and I’m thankful that I have 10” steel stakes and a 2.5lb sledge hammer because the ground is very rocky. The sites are very clean and quite. Enjoy a short walk from the camping sites to the water and hiking trails. Bring your camera for sure! Don’t miss this Northern Wisconsin park just Southeast of Duluth Minnesota.
If you want to avoid camper cities and crowded camp sites within 30 minutes of Lincoln Nebraska, Olive Creek is a good choice. Primative, tent only, and far enough from major roads to reduce man made noises. Enjoy excellent star gazing away from city lights. Bring drinking water.
Visit this majestic destination state park along the North shore of MN! Gooseberry Falls is an incredible family friendly state park with tons of hiking and private feeling camping spots. You can hear Lake Superior from your campsite! The “yelling” sounds you hear in the morning are from the seagulls according to a local I asked. Bring your camera as you visit the falls. Come during the week to avoid the crowds and get visitor free pictures of the falls. You can walk right out in water on the rock formations. Waterproof shoes are a plus. My 13 year old son said it is the most beautiful place he has ever seen. The park staff are very friendly and there is a great gift shop at the nature center. If you come on the weekend get there early. Parking spots near the nature center and trail heads fill up fast. Enjoy!
Pawnee SRA is a well maintained family friendly SRA North West of Lincoln Nebraska. You’ll find powered and primative sites accommodating RV’s to tents. Pawnee can be busy during Husker Football Saturdays in the fall as an alternative to expensive lodging in town so plan ahead. You’ll find fun hiking trails along a creek, a shower house, playground, and even an archery range. In the fall this campground is near hunting land so wear bright clothes if you are going on a hike. This is one of my family’s favorite SRA’s within 30 minutes of Lincoln. You won’t regret a stay at this beautiful campground.