Nebraska. Home to tall corn and great basketball. But wait. There’s, even more, to be said for camping in Nebraska, or even living in the state. Gallup surveys rank Nebraska among the top ten states with the happiest residents. Known as the “Cornhusker State” — all that corn you know. The state insect is the honeybee. Nebraska is also famous for being home to the largest porch swing in the world. It is located in the city of Hebron and can comfortably seat 25 adults. Here’s another little known fact: Nebraska was the first state to utilize the emergency 911 system.
Nebraska has nine state parks, 10 State Wildlife Management Areas, two National Forests, One National Historic Site, six National Wildlife Refuges and one National Recreation Area. See the entire list at the state parks website. There’s bound to be something for everyone in your family, or for you if you’re a solo traveler.
While Nebraska’s great, treeless plains lend themselves to farming and grazing, and its many creeks and rivers to keeping the land moist and fertile, those same creeks and rivers boast great fishing. And, the state has plenty of trees—many of them old hardwood trees that provide great shade to tents and RVs—if you know where to find them.
Most Notable –
Nebraska’s a big state. It’s been said the state competed with Kansas for a starring role in The Wizard of Oz, but that movie producers needed a black and white state, so they chose Kansas instead. It’s a joke. The opening scenes of the Wizard and Oz were in black and white… never mind.
Joke about Nebraska all you want. It will keep people away from scoring the best camping spots in the mid-west — more camping adventures for me and you. Do you think I’m still joking? I’m not. Let me show you what Nebraska has to offer:
Fremont Stake Lakes – Camping in Nebraska
Phone: (402) 727-2922
With 40 land acres and nearly 300 water acres spread over 20 sandpit lakes, Fremont Sra is one of eastern Nebraska’s most popular recreation areas. Located three miles west of Fremont, this is a favorite area with campers, picnickers and water enthusiasts. The water has a lot to do with the park’s popularity, as do the 212 campsites. There are 190 hard-surfaced pads with 20- and 30-amp electrical hookups, as well as 12 non-pad sites with electrical hookups. Also, there are 240 non-pad sites without electricity. There are pull through sites, and it’s big rig friendly.
The campground is situated among mature shade trees, and showers, modern restrooms, water and two dump stations are available. There’s boating, fishing, water skiing and an unsupervised swim beach. There is a Personal Water Craft (PWC) area, as well as a handicap accessible fishing pier. Fremont State Recreation Area’s campgrounds offer hard surfaced pads, located under and among mature shade trees. Modern shower/latrine buildings and drinking water are conveniently located. There are showers, trailer dump stations and water are available.
If you enjoy good food, there’s also a concession stand at the park—The Tow Line Restaurant. It’s more of a grill and convenience shop than a restaurant, so no need to break out the tuxedos and ties. The Tow Line is located on Victory Lake at 3120 State Lake Road, Fremont. Call if you need directions. The phone number is 402-753-0957. The Tow Line serves breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, and seafood. Walk-ins are welcome. This is a good place for groups, kids, take out, delivery, catering, waiter service and outdoor seating. Call and ask about their beach volleyball summer leagues.
Harlan County Lake – Camping in Nebraska
Located in southcentral Nebraska, Harlan County Lake is the second largest lake in the state. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ project the lake covers 31,000 acres, with 13,250 acres of water surface. It is well known for its excellent walleye, catfish, and white bass fishing. And wherever you have awesome fishing, you’re going to find awesome camping. Harlan County Lake is no different. The lake is so popular with anglers, there’s even a fishing website updated daily for those anxious to wet their fishing lines.
There are 542 camping pads available at 6 established U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds around the lake’s 75 miles of shoreline.
- Hunter Cove
- Methodist Cove
- Gremlin Cove
- North Outlet
- South Outlet
- Cedar Point
Reserve a campsite at any of the six sites (see below for site details) by calling toll-free 877-444-6777 or via the website Recreation.gov . No state camping permit is needed, and the Corps honors America the Beautiful Senior and Access Passes. To reserve shelter houses, contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Harlan County Lake, 308-799-2105.
Hunter Cove Campground – Camping in Nebraska
70788 Corps Rd A
Republican City, NE 68971-9742
Phone: (308) 799-2105
Hunter Cove Campground offers both primitive camping and electrical hookups, two modern shower houses, Laundromat, dump station, boat ramp, fish cleaning station, play structure for the kids, and a fantastic view of the lake. They also have 160 total sites—84 electrical sites (includes 19 pull-through spaces), 44 standard non-electric, and 20 tent-only non-electric sites. They offer 30 and 50-amp service, boat ramp, heated shower, coin-operated laundry, potable water, playground, dump station, refuse containers and a fish cleaning station.
Methodist Cove – Camping in Nebraska
70788 Corps Road A
Republican City, NE E 68971-9742
Phone: (308) 799-2105
Methodist Cover has 133 sites, with one group shelter with electric, two standard non-electric sites, and 48 standard electric sites. There are also 81 non-electric sites. There is also one reservable group picnic shelter for day use. One large heated shower house with flush toilets is centrally located within the campground and several vault toilets are located throughout the rest of the park. Other amenities include a dump station, drinking water, playground and boat ramp.
The main road is hard surfaced, while others are gravel. A fish cleaning station with a grinder and running water is located near the entrance. There two full-service marinas on the east end of the lake.
Gremlin Cove – Camping in Nebraska
70701 Corp Road A
Republican City, NE 68971
Phone: (308) 799-2105
With about 60 campsites, Gremlin Cove offers primitive camping, modern restrooms, fresh water, a beach and boat ramp, and a large shelter house to accommodate large gatherings. There’s also a playground for kids and a boat launch for adults. However, it’s not a good site for big rigs. It’s near Patterson Harbor Marina if you want to stay in a cabin, or camp at the Patterson Harbor Campground.
Patterson Harbor Campground and Marina – Camping in Nebraska
12121 Road 3
Republican City, NE 68971
Phone: (388) 709-4600
There are approximately 80 campsites with 30-or-50 amp connections for short-term camping.
Annual rental and tent camping is available on the grounds in Tent City at Patterson Harbor Marina and Resort in Republican City.
Patterson Harbor Marina offers uncovered slips for nightly mooring (transient or longer rental) customers. Customers are encouraged to visit their reservation system to book a mooring slip for their stay. Daily mooring reservations are non-refundable and the full rental rate is due at the time of reservation. In addition, boat rentals are also available on a first come, first served basis.
Public Campgrounds around Harlan Lake
North Shore RV – Camping in Nebraska
Republican City, NE 68971
Phone: (308) 799-2315
Northshore RV has 75 spaces with large lots, and many pull through spaces. Sewer hookup, water, and 50 amp electrical service are available on every site.
This campground is for RV’s only. They do not allow tents or pop-ups. Fires must be in an above-ground fireplace. Rates are $30 a night or $180 a week, with annual rates available. There is a two-night minimum, with three nights required on holiday weekends. Sorry, but no refunds. Northshore is conveniently located between the Corps of Engineers Gremlin Cove and Hunter Cove campgrounds.
North Shore Marina – Camping in Nebraska
Republican City, NE 68971
Phone: (308) 799-2315
North Shore Marina has 84 covered slips, 27 uncovered slips and end ties. All slips are leased on an annual basis, with some slips available for overnight or short-term rental on a first come first served basis. Annual rates run from $650 to $1400 for uncovered and covered slips. Overnighters are $15/night for uncovered and $20/night for covered.
Calamus Reservoir, Burwell – Camping in Nebraska
42254 Hatchery Rd
Phone: (308) 346-5666
Calamus Reservoir, one of Nebraska’s most beautiful lakes also offers some of the best camping. Calamus offers 132 pad sites with 30- and 50-amp electrical hookups spread over three different campgrounds. Shower houses are available at Homestead Knolls, Nunda Shoal, and Valley View Flat campgrounds.
All three areas offer mature shade trees, water, and modern restrooms and each area is within walking distance of the lake. A dump station is available at Little York Point. Additionally, RV and camper camping is permitted in the parking lots of the Valley View Flat and Hannaman Bayou campgrounds in designated spots.
You’ll find modern restrooms and showers here, too. Located in Nebraska’s beautiful Sandhills, Calamus State Recreation Area is among the most popular places for camping, fishing, boating, picnicking and hiking in the state. The area includes a 5,123-acre lake and surrounding 4,958 acres of gently rolling land, covered with native grasses and forbs. Some 1.2 miles of the Calamus River and 3.5 miles of other streams meander through the area.
Camp A Way – Camping in Nebraska
200 Campers Circle
Phone: (402) 476-2282
Camp A Way is a highly rated and reviewed family style campground outside Lincoln, Nebraska. For more than 50 years they’ve been a favorite for local and out-of-state tourists and campers. There’s a great family vibe, and lots of — you guessed it — kids and families here. The campground offers full hook-up campsites that can accommodate everything from Pop-ups and Class Bs to Toy Haulers and Luxury Coaches. Half of the sites in the park are 50 amp pull-thrus for RVs longer than 36 feet. They have some of the largest sites in the area to accommodate almost all RVs on the road. Some sites are over 90 feet long!
A special note to custom and non-traditional trailer owners: because of our beautiful trees, 30’ or shorter, mid-axle placement is key. A 49’ “traditional style” custom bumper-pull travel trailer can easily navigate our park, but a 45’ rear-axle, commercial truck trailer has difficulty.
- Indoor spa
- Huge dog park
- ZoomFlume water slide
- Heated Pool
Fort Kearney State Recreation Area – Camping in Nebraska
Fort Kearny State Historical Park
1020 V Rd | Kearney, NE 68847-9804
Phone: (308) 865-5305
Originally a safe haven in the 1800s for Overland Trail travelers and gold prospectors, Fort Kearny is now a state historical park preserved by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. As the first fort built to protect travelers on the Oregon-California Trail it also served as a home station for Pony Express riders and Pawnee scouts and was an important stage station. It sheltered crews building the Union Pacific Railroad.
Now Fort Kearny State Recreation Area shelters a different kind of traveler—campers and tourists. Camping Facilities at the park include: 75 camping pads with electrical hookups*35 camping pads without electricity*20/30 – 50 amp. Campers may reserve sites up to one year in advance.
The park offers 186 acres dotted with sandpit lakes and excellent camping facilities, including both modern and primitive tent camping. There are showers and modern restrooms, plus a trailer dump station. Facilities include electrical and primitive camp pads, showers, a dump station, modern restrooms, water at the dump station, picnic tables, grills, shelters, wheelchair-accessible fishing pier, nature trail, nonpower boating and hike-bike trail.
Cottonwood trees, some over 100 years old, shade much of the camping area, and in the spring, the world’s largest concentration of sandhill cranes and waterfowl gathers in the central Platte River valley.
Pawnee State Recreation Area – Camping in Nebraska
3800 N.W. 105th St.
Lincoln, NE 68524
Phone: (402) 796-2362
Pawnee State Recreation Area has 68 modern camping pads with electrical hook-ups as well as 34 non-electric pads and 97 non-electrical, non-pad sites. Visitors have plenty of room to pitch their tent or park their rig to enjoy a day or a week of outdoor fun. Boaters will find four docks provide easy access to the lake, and anglers can haul in northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill and two kinds of catfish among others. Located on the second largest lake in the Salt Valley, Pawnee visitors have access to more than 1,800 acres of land.
Who’s It For –
Hikers, hunters, shutterbugs and anyone else who enjoys the out-of-doors will find something to love about this park. For hunters, there’s abundant upland and small game, waterfowl and deer. Anglers will love catching white bass, walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill and two kinds of catfish, among others. Campers have miles of shoreline to enjoy, and a shady modern electrical campground with shower facilities, fishing, boating, picnicking, hiking and wildlife viewing. Boaters will find four docks provide easy access to the lake.
Pawnee State Recreation Area is one of 20 Salt Valley lakes located within 25-mile radius of Lincoln. Seven are highly developed state recreation areas and 5 are more primitive state wildlife areas. All offer a variety of recreational opportunities. Park permit required. Camping fee.
Swanson Reservoir – Camping in Nebraska
36166 Road 44B
Trenton, Neb. | 69044
Phone: (308) 334-5493
Why camp in your RV when you can pitch your tent on a sandy beach only steps from the water? Swanson Reservoir State Recreation Area is the largest of four recreation areas in the southwest part of the state. Located near Trenton, Swanson consists of a 4,974 acre lake and 3,957 acres of land. The area offers fishing, boating, camping, concessions and hunting in season and yes, camping on the beach.
Swanson Reservoir State Recreation Area offers 64 camping pads with 20-, 30- and 50-amp electrical hookups spread over two campgrounds. 17 are at Macklin and 47 are located at Spring Canyon Campground. Both offer modern restrooms and showers. An additional 150 or so primitive sites are available on the sandy beach surrounding the lake. Camping areas include Trail 3, Trail 4 and Trail 7.
The beaches are kept well groomed and are popular with campers. There are two dump stations on site, and firewood is provided for campers. A sand volleyball court is also available.
Box Butte Reservoir – Camping in Nebraska
Box Butte Reservoir SRA
PO Box 392
Crawford, NE 69339-0392
Phone: (308) 665-2903
Birdwatchers, this one’s for you. Box Butte Reservoir State Recreation Area is located 9 1/2 miles north of Hemingford, Nebraska. It features some of the best birdwatching opportunities in the Nebraska panhandle. Among species that have been spotted there are Say’s Phoebes, Ferruginous Hawks, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Wood-pewee, Indigo Bunting and Wood Thrush.
Box Butte Reservoir is one of the prettiest reservoirs in Nebraska with excellent water quality, habitat, fish populations and of course fishing. In fact, it is an extremely popular fishery for Nebraskans and many guests to the state. The area encompasses 2,212 acres on the west edge of the Sandhills and includes a 1,600-acre lake. The area is a good spot for fishing, camping and picnicking. This truly beautiful location in Northwest Nebraska offers year-round camping on 14 modern pads and 40 primitive non-pad sites. Modern camping facilities include 30- and 50-amp electrical hookups. The park also offers water, and vault toilets.
Victoria Springs – camping in Nebraska
43400 Hwy. S21A
Anselmo, NE 68813-9541
Phone: (308) 749-2235
Some people will jokingly say that “camping” or “roughing it” is staying in a hotel without cable television. Many of us love our RVs and having all the comforts of home on four wheels next to a campfire. But for some, the true campers, there is primitive camping—in tents, on the ground, away from technology and amenities. They’re the pioneers and woodsmen/women. For them, there’s Victoria Springs.
Established in 1925, Victoria Springs State Recreation Area is the third oldest area in Nebraska’s state park system. Located 6miles east of Anselmo or 7miles north of Merna, Victoria Springs has been described as an oasis in the Sand Hills. It is also one of the most picturesque areas in the state.
Victoria Springs offers 21 camping pads with 20-, 30- and 50-amp electrical hookups, as well as 60 non-pad sites without electricity. Water, modern restrooms, showers and a dump station are available. Okay, so tent campers won’t be out on the prairies with no civilization in sight, but they will have their peace, quiet and tents and a flush toilet within walking distance if they should choose.
The 60-acre area draws its name from the mineral springs located there. It was once part of the homestead of a pioneer and Custer County judge Charles R. Matthews. In the heyday of the spas, Victoria’s waters were much acclaimed, and its spring water was bottled and sold throughout the United States. Still on the site are the log cabins that Judge Matthews built, one as his home and the other as the first post office in Custer County. In addition to these historic buildings and the scenic setting, Victoria Springs also offers, cabins, camping, a picnic area and rental boats.
Things to Know About Camping in Nebraska
If you’re planning on camping in any of Nebraska’s nine State Parks you need to know a valid Nebraska park permit is required for all motor vehicles entering all state parks, recreation areas and historical parks. Permits are available wherever hunting/fishing permits are sold, from any Commission office, at staffed state park areas and at OutdoorNeraska.org.