Outdoor notes: Catch these Game and Parks education events in September
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission educators have scheduled interesting and engaging events for the curious in September. Here are some opportunities:
Fishing for Younger Friends scheduled Sept. 1, 22
Fishing for Younger Friends, scheduled at 10 a.m. Sept. 1 and 22 at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, is a program designed to get young people into fishing.
Children ages 3-5 years will learn the names of some common Nebraska fish, make a fish print and learn to cast by playing Backyard Bass.
Following the program, the children can fish at the lake. Equipment and bait will be provided. Adults ages 16 and up who fish with their children must have a fishing license. Adult supervision is required.
Nebraska Reptile Month Art Contest begins Sept. 4
October is Nebraska Reptile Month, and students across the state are invited to celebrate by participating in an annual art contest hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Artists in grades K-12 may submit their original artwork of a Nebraska native reptile between Sept. 4 and Oct. 18 at OutdoorNebraska.gov; search for “Reptile Awareness Month” and use the submission form on that page.
Students may use any medium to create their art, but then must scan, or take a picture and upload their artwork to the website. Students who submit entries will receive reptile items. To learn more about Nebraska’s native reptile species, or for inspiration for artwork, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov and search for “reptiles.”
To view the winners at the end of the contest, “like” the Nebraska Wildlife Education Facebook page.
Mahoney SP to host Beginner Birding on Tuesdays
Beginner Birding is a program for all ages at 9 a.m. each Tuesday in September at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. Explore the world of birding and hike the park looking for birds with a naturalist.
Learn about what it takes to be a birder, some benefits of the hobby and ways to identify the birds you see. The hour-long program meets at Owen Marina.
Resources will be available, but participants may bring their own binoculars. Dress comfortably for walking and time outdoors.
Growing Up WILD Educator Workshop set for Sept. 5 in Hastings
A Growing Up WILD educator workshop, which provides an early foundation for developing positive attitudes and behaviors about nature and lifelong social and academic skills, is scheduled for Sept. 5 in Hastings.
This award-winning early childhood curriculum guide is for educators of children ages 3-7. The guide builds on children’s sense of wonder about nature by providing age appropriate, interdisciplinary lessons. Each thematic lesson includes multiple activities which teach math, reading, letter recognition, science, social studies as well as social-emotional skills.
Little Saplings program presents Spiders on Sept. 6
Adults looking to explore the outdoors with their young children are invited to Little Saplings, a monthly early childhood nature discovery program at Schramm Education Center near Gretna.
The 2023 series continues Sept. 6 with the theme Spiders at 9 and 10 a.m. It is designed for children ages 2-5 and their adult caregiver. The cost is $4 per child and $5 per adult per program and includes admission to the Education Center after the program.
See the calendar event entry at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov for more information.
Chadron State Park to host Bioblitz
Join natural resource experts and community volunteers to discover the biodiversity of the Chadron State Park on Sept. 8-9.
The bioblitz is designed for participants to learn about plants and animals at the park, and then work to identify as many as possible during the event.
Sept. 8 participants will learn about small mammals, bats and the night sky, eat dinner and play nature trivia. On Sept. 9, participants will see bird banding, survey for small mammals, plants and insects, or explore the pond.
Register for the event by Sept. 5 in the event listing at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov, where you also can find the schedule of events. People may attend as much of the event as they want.
The program is free, but a vehicle park entry permit is required.
Wildcat Hills preschool program is Sept. 12
Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area will host the monthly preschool program Sept. 12.
The program Beautiful Birds will meet at the Nature Center at 10 a.m. Mountain time. There will be a lesson plan, story and hands-on activity specifically targeted for children ages 2-6.
The program is free, but a vehicle park entry permit is required. For more information, contact the Nature Center at 308-436-3777. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Wildcat Hills to host Feathered Friends homeschool program
Participants will learn about types of fish, fish anatomy and take part in an art project during the Wildcat Hills homeschool program Feathered Friends on Sept. 14.
This program meets at 10 a.m. Mountain time at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center.
The program is free, but a vehicle park entry permit is required. For more information contact the Nature Center at 308-436-3777. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Rockin’ Rocks is Sept. 17 at Schramm Park SRA
Participate in Rockin’ Rocks and join a naturalist and geologist at the geological outcrop at Schramm Park State Recreation Area to learn about rocks and fossils on Sept. 17.
During this 10 a.m. event, participants can conduct chemistry experiments on rocks, learn the significance of the rock cycle in Nebraska and more.
The outcrop is located at the park’s east entrance across from the canoe launch.
Nebraska Nature Nerd Trivia Night is Sept. 21 in Grand Island
Grab your fellow nature nerds and join the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as it hosts Nebraska Nature Nerd Trivia Night at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at Prairie Pride Brewing Company in Grand Island.
Nature is cool, so there is no shortage of topics questions could cover. Get your teams of no more than five players and be ready to compete for prizes. Registration is not required.
These events are for adults only and are free to attend with a purchase from Prairie Pride Brewing, 115 E. South Front St., No. 1.
Homeschool Hike set for Sept. 20-21 at Schramm Park SRA
Homeschool families are invited to join an outdoor educator on a guided hike to learn about geology at Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna during the Homeschool Hikes program at 9 a.m. Sept. 20 and 2 p.m. Sept. 21. The theme is ladybugs.
Homeschool Hikes is a monthly nature exploration program hosted by the Schramm Education Center geared toward homeschool families and ages 5 and up.
Participants are encouraged to RSVP in advance through the event listing at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov. Cost is $4 per child and $5 per adult per program. This includes admission to the Schramm Education Center after the program. Schramm Family Pass members participate free.
Participants should dress in season-appropriate layers and wear closed-toed shoes that can get dirty. Hats and water bottles are recommended.
Wetland water conditions poor over much of Rainwater Basin
Wetland water conditions throughout most of the Rainwater Basin currently is poor, with many wetlands being dry due to the drought and hot weather, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Hunters should be prepared to scout ahead of teal season. Some wetland pumping is planned before the teal opener.
The conditions recently were observed by biologists. To view the Aug. 22 report on wetland conditions and pumping plans, go to OutdoorNebraska.gov/hunt/game/waterfowl, where updates will be posted regularly throughout the duck seasons.
Waterfowl hunting in Nebraska begins with early teal season Sept. 2-10 in the High Plains Zone and Sept. 2-17 in the Low Plains Zone. See an interactive zone map at OutdoorNebraska.gov/guides-maps/maps.
In addition to providing places to hunt waterfowl, wetlands are pumped when needed to provide habitat for migrating waterfowl and other water birds, and to provide areas for people to observe wildlife.
Visit OutdoorNebraska.gov for more information on waterfowl hunting or to purchase permits and stamps and register for the Harvest Information Program.
Explore the parks with these Game and Parks events in September
Spend the final days of summer in Nebraska’s state parks. During September, a variety of events are planned for those interested in history, conservation, nature or just having a good time. Here are several examples:
Harvest Celebration begins at Arbor Day Farm
The fun of the Harvest Celebration lasts all fall season at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. Plan to visit this attraction and Arbor Lodge Mansion for autumn-inspired activities starting in September.
Some of the activities include U-pick Apples and Pumpkins at the Tree Adventure, Living History Weekends at Arbor Lodge, AppleJack Festival, wine and hard cider tasting, food trucks, private sunset orchard wine tasting, and apples, apple pie, apple donuts, apple cider, caramel apples, and more at the Apple House Market.
These activities take place at various times throughout the season. Check the events calendar at arbordayfarm.org/activities/events.cfm for details.
Labor Day Weekend at Fort Kearny
Celebrate Labor Day at Fort Kearny State Historical Park for a living history weekend Sept. 2-4 at the park near Kearney.
A cannon firing will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with a special night firing on Sunday at sunset. Daily living history demonstrations will occur from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with special living history activities on Sunday afternoon.
Visitors to the park will be able to explore exhibits and the reconstructed buildings, including the stockade, grounds, powder magazine and blacksmith/carpenter shop. Reenactors will be at the park to discuss life as a soldier during the fort’s early days.
A valid Nebraska park entry permit is required. Cost to visit the interpretive center is $4 per adult and $1 per child. For more information, contact the park at [email protected] or 308-865-5305.
Living History Weekends at Fort Atkinson in September
Visit Fort Atkinson State Historical Park for Living History Weekend on Sept. 2-3, and again Sept. 30-Oct. 1, and see reenactors portray life in an 1820s military fort.
Activities take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They include military demonstrations, mountain man camp, laundresses, blacksmithing, tinsmithing, spinning/weaving, coopering and more.
Visit the calendar event entries at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for the full schedule.
A valid Nebraska park entry permit is required. Cost to visit the Harold W. Andersen Visitor Center is $4 per adult and $1 per child. For more information, contact the park at [email protected] or 402-468-5611.
Take aim at Sling Shots at Schramm Education Center
Those age 5 and up can try their hand at Sling Shots on Sept. 3 and 24 at the Schramm Education Center near Gretna.
Meet at the lobby of the education center at 1 p.m. before heading outdoors for this game of skill and learn how to use a wrist-rocket-style sling shot. Test your precision and accuracy with tin-can targets.
Parental supervision is required. Admission fees apply for those who wish to visit the education center.
Learn more about the center at OutdoorNebraska.gov.
3rd annual Ash Hollow Rendezvous is Sept. 8-10
The 3rd Annual Ash Hollow Rendezvous will be Sept. 8-10 at Ash Hollow State Historical Park near Lewellen. It will allow visitors to immerse themselves in pre-1840 history, unique culture and educate themselves of a bygone era.
Rendezvous historically were in the fall among fur traders and Native American tribes. They were a time to gather, share trade goods and knowledge. It was a time to relax, make money and have some fun.
There will be demonstrations of black powder shooting, tomahawk throwing, recurve bow-and-arrow shooting, open-fire cooking, trap setting, and canoeing. Traders’ row will feature historic-themed vendors where goods can be viewed and purchased. A cowboy poet and singer/songwriter will perform throughout the days, and food vendors will be on location.
A living history tent will host historical re-enactors talking about the newest kitchen utensils, fashion, political issues, current events, and people who lived in 1876.
A mountain man run – a fur trader’s version of an iron man event – will consist of tomahawk throwing, canoeing, trap setting, black-powder rifle shooting, and fire starting. It is open to the public. Registration is required by calling Teaspoon Stots, the Rendezvous Booshway at 801-719-9330.
Ash Hollow opens at 9 a.m. Mountain time. The event is free, but a park entry permit is required. Dogs must be on a leash.
Discover importance of dark skies for Merritt Reservoir SRA’s bats
Come and explore the dark and mysterious creatures of the night that call Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area home – bats.
From 7:30-9 p.m. Sept. 9, discover why dark skies are important for these nocturnal critters.
Merritt Reservoir SRA, renown for its Sandhills location providing spectacular astronomical views, in 2022 was certified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.
This free event will take place at the Snake River Area boat dock. A park entry permit is required.
Birding for Everybody and Every Body at Rock Creek Station on Sept. 16
Visit Rock Creek Station State Historical Park near Fairbury on Sept. 16 for Birding for Everybody and Every Body, a free birding activity that is accessible and inclusive.
This 1:30 p.m. event is open to everyone, including beginner birders and families with small children. Join a guided bird outing or view birds from the Visitor Center lobby.
The 1-mile birding event will start at the Visitor Center. The trail is a mowed grass trail with a slight slope. Picnic tables will be available a quarter mile from the Visitor Center. The guided outing will take an hour and be limited to the first 20 people.
Birding may also be done from the lobby by viewing birds at the feeding station through the large picture windows.
Binoculars will be available to use. A park entry permit is required.
For more information about Birdability education, outreach, and advocacy visit birdability.org.
Mahoney State Park to host Nebraska Star Party on Sept. 22
Come to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park on Sept. 22 for stargazing fun at the Nebraska Star Party.
Powerful telescopes will be set up at the park’s golf shack so the public can get a glimpse of night sky spectaculars from 9-11:30 p.m. Stargazing will begin at dusk. Remember to bring camp chairs or blankets.
The rain date is Sept. 23.
The event is free, but a vehicle park entry permit is required.
Saddle up for the Enders Horse Trail Ride
Saddle up your horses for the annual Enders Trail Ride on Sept. 30 at Enders Reservoir State Recreation Area.
The trail ride will be two hours through the recreation area; visitors will be able to view wildlife and beautiful scenery from the beach and through the wooded areas.
The ride is great for novice to advanced riders. Riders must bring their own horses. Camping is available and camping fees are applicable; however, there are no equestrian pens at Enders Reservoir SRA.
There is no fee to attend the ride. A daily or annual park entry permit is required upon entry and can be purchased at the park or online at OutdoorNebraska.gov.
There will be a potluck lunch after the trail ride. The main dish and refreshments will be provided for participants.
Pre-registration is preferred. For more information or to register, call or text Dayna at 308-233-1026 or Beau Licking at 308-530-2648.
2023-2024 Public Access Atlas now available
There are more than a million acres of publicly accessible lands throughout Nebraska. The recently published 2023-2024 Public Access Atlas identifies and consolidates these public access resources for the benefit of Nebraska’s hunters, trappers and anglers.
Printed copies of this year’s atlas are available at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission headquarters and soon will be available in its district offices and service centers, as well as wherever hunt and fish permits are sold.
The Public Access Atlas also is available online at OutdoorNebraska.gov in several formats: interactive atlas map, offline atlas (mobile-friendly), digital flipbook and Google Earth KMZ files.
The atlas is updated annually and displays all publicly accessible lands throughout the state, including state, federal and conservation partner lands.
Private lands enrolled in Game and Parks’ Open Fields and Waters Program also are included in the atlas. Open Field and Waters provides financial incentives to private landowners allowing walk-in, public access for hunting, trapping and/or fishing. Finding places to hunt and fish can be a challenge for hunters and anglers but, thanks to Nebraska’s landowners, 374,000 acres of private lands are available through this voluntary program.
Send in grouse wings to help wildlife management
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will conduct its annual grouse wing collection during the upcoming upland season starting Sept. 1.
Hunters in the zone east of U.S. Highway 81 already are required to send in wings, but hunters in the zone west of the highway also are encouraged to participate.
Hunters in the east zone are required to have a “special grouse permit” prior to hunting, in addition to a hunt permit and habitat stamp. This special grouse permit is free, but availability is limited to 400 overall and one per hunter. Requests for this permit are accepted in person at the Game and Parks headquarters in Lincoln, by phone at 402-471-5410, by mail or by email at [email protected].
East zone hunters will be issued a hunt diary to record their hunting efforts, as well as wing envelopes to send in a wing from each harvested grouse.
Those hunting in the west zone who are interested in participating will be sent postage paid envelopes for wings to be submitted. Requests can be made to Bryan O’Connor, Game and Parks’ upland game program manager, at [email protected] or 308-293-0102.
The annual wing collection allows Game and Parks to monitor harvest and hunter effort, while also identifying the age structure and health of the grouse population. A wildlife biologist will age each wing submitted to determine the ratio of juvenile to adult birds harvested; this information helps determine how successful grouse reproduction was for the current year and is an indication of population growth or decline.
“We’d like to see more participation from hunters in the west zone so we can expand our sample size and get a better representation of harvest and age structure across the state,” O’Connor said.
All data collected will help wildlife biologists make management decisions in the future that benefit the grouse population.
Prairie grouse season begins Sept. 1 and ends Jan. 31, 2024. Learn more about upland hunting and Game and Parks wildlife management efforts at OutdoorNebraska.gov; search for “upland.”
Highway 97 closed to through traffic south of Merritt Reservoir SRA
Highway 97 north of Mullen, or 24 miles south of Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, is closed to through traffic, effective immediately, according to the Hooker County Sheriff’s Office.
The wooden bridge across the North Loup River is compromised, and the Nebraska Department of Transportation has advised only local cars and pickups without trailers cross the bridge at 25 mph or slower. The closure will be strictly enforced.
Park visitors traveling from the south are advised to use Highway 83 from Thedford to Valentine and then south 26 miles on Highway 97 to Merritt Reservoir SRA.