The $1.2 million expansion of the Mare Barn Campground at Fort Robinson State Park is scheduled to open this week, bolstering the northwestern Nebraska attraction's reputation as the state's premier destination for those traveling with horses.

Donita Morava, a superintendent at the park, said the 24 new sites and new horse pens at the west end of the park's main complex will opened May 24 if no snags occur as contractors finalize electrical work.

The new sites, which doubled the campground’s previous capacity, provide hook-ups for 50-amp electricity, water and sewer. They are all paved and long enough to accommodate a truck and trailer. Three of the new sites are designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We still need to add some trees and get the grass to grow, but the sites are ready for people to camp on them,” she said.

Half of the campground’s sites are available for reservation, while the other half are first-come, first-served. To reserve the sites, people may visit the “Make a Reservation” link at

The 30 new pens near the campground are expected to be popular with visitors who want a place to put horses during their stay. The 20-by-24-foot open-air pens complement the historical Mare Barn Complex, which was renovated in 2020.

Morava said the pens have long been requested by visitors, as some horses aren’t used to being indoors, especially in hot weather. This gives visitors an option.

The Mare Barn offers stalls in 20,000 square feet of space over a 300-yard-long footprint in the shape of a C. It originally housed the broodmares when Fort Robinson served as a remount depot for the U.S. Army from 1919 to 1945.

Four of the original 24 sites offer full hook-ups, with the rest providing electrical service. A new shower house was installed at the campground in 2022.

Morava said Fort Robinson’s rich history in horses — both as a state park and its former role as a cavalry base — make it an ideal attraction to cater to the rising popularity of equestrian activities nationwide.

“It’s going to become increasingly popular as time goes on,” she said. “People love to bring their horses to experience the open spaces of the Pine Ridge.”

The Mare Barn Campground is one of three campgrounds at the park. There are 98 sites with varying levels of amenities at the Soldier Creek Campground and 157 full hook-up sites at the Red Cloud Campground. Both are on the other side of the main park complex, east of U.S. Highway 20.

As zebra mussels creep closer, Game and Parks urgers boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry

While Nebraskans can expect to see many boaters on the lakes this Memorial Day weekend, they also can expect to find Nebraska Game and Parks staff inspecting boats for invasive zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels are a small, D-shaped clam with alternating light and dark bands across the shell. They can be as small as a pencil eraser. These non-native mussels can cause damage to Nebraska’s ecosystems and economy once established. They form dense colonies, filtering nutrients from the water that native species need to survive. The mussels also can pollute swimming beaches with their sharp shells and damage public and private infrastructure.

Zebra mussels primarily are spread by boaters and anglers by “hitchhiking” on and inside watercraft and angling equipment. Veligers, or zebra mussel larvae, are microscopic and can survive in a single drop of water for several days. Adult mussels can live out of water for up to a month.

To stop zebra mussels’ spread, it’s important to ensure boating and angling equipment have been cleaned inside and out, drained of standing water, and allowed to dry completely before entering another water body.

“The battle against zebra mussels is more important now than ever,” said Kristopher Stahr, Game and Parks’ aquatic invasive species program manager. “Nebraska is fortunate in that we currently don’t have widespread zebra mussel infestations across our state, but we are under increased threat from surrounding waters.”

In 2023, Beaver Lake, a private lake near Plattsmouth, became Nebraska’s fifth water body with an established zebra mussel population, joining Lewis and Clark Lake, Lake Yankton, the Missouri River, and Offutt Air Force Base Lake. Surrounding states, including South Dakota, Iowa and Kansas, have faced increasing zebra mussel spread in recent years.

Game and Parks staff will conduct boat inspections at boat ramps statewide this summer. Nearly 10,000 boat inspections have been completed in the past two years, protecting Nebraska’s waters from zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil, curlyleaf pondweed, white perch, and invasive carp.

Visit for more details on the Clean, Drain, Dry Procedure and for information about invasive species in Nebraska.

The public is encouraged to report any suspected observation of zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species to Game and Parks at 402-471-7602 or at [email protected].

Catch these Game and Parks education events in June

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission educators have scheduled interesting and engaging events for the curious in June.

Don’t forget to purchase a vehicle park entry permit to enter the state parks, except one is not required to park in the Schramm Education Center parking lot. Get one at or at state park entrances.

Here are some opportunities:

Ash Hollow SHP to host bioblitz June 1

Come to Ash Hollow State Historical Park near Lewellen on June 1 for a bioblitz and help biologists and other volunteers find and identify as many species of plants and animals as possible.

All necessary materials will be provided. Be sure to dress according to the weather. Lunch will be provided, but participants should provide their own dinner. Camp chairs are recommended.

The bioblitz starts at 7 a.m. Mountain time with bird banding and continues with several sessions, ending with moth lighting and bat mist netting or acoustics at 9 p.m.

For more information, email [email protected]. Visit the calendar event listing at for the full schedule.

Butterfly survey training at Schramm Park SRA

Become a community scientist and help conserve Nebraska’s rare, at-risk butterflies. Training for the Monarch and Regal Fritillary Survey will be from 1-5 p.m. June 1 at Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna.

The survey is a community science project where volunteers help biologists document monarch and regal fritillary butterflies in Nebraska.

Join the first hour to learn information about butterflies and other community science opportunities. Then, anyone interested in becoming a survey volunteer is invited to stay to learn how to participate.

For more information, see the calendar event entry at or contact Cody Dreier at [email protected] or 402-471-1755.

Flock to Birds of a Feather on June 4

Get ready to go birding by participating in the new Birds of a Feather program at 9:30 a.m. on select Tuesdays at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park’s new James Family Conservatory and Nature Center.

On June 4, the topic for this free, bird-related program for all ages will be Habitats Birds Depend On. Learn where to look for birds based on the habitats they need and learn how ranges can be a clue for identification.

Wise and Wild is June 4 at James Family Conservatory

Wise and Wild is a program for those age 55 and up who love the outdoors. It will be at 3 p.m. on select Tuesdays at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park’s new James Family Conservatory and Nature Center.

On June 4, the topic for this free event will be Wildflower Identification. It’s Wildflower Week in Nebraska. Learn about their importance and how to identify some native species.

Little Saplings presents Ants on June 5

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 2024 series, which occurs the first Wednesday of the month, continues June 5 with the theme Ants at 9 and 10 a.m. It is designed for children ages 2-5 and their adult caregivers. The cost is $4 per child and $5 per adult.

See the calendar event entry at for more information.

‘Science of’ virtual webinar series returns in June

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s popular “Science of” virtual webinar series returns in June.

Every Thursday at 3 p.m. Central time, Game and Parks educators will discuss some of the science behind common things regarding nature and animals.

The hourlong webinars are free, but separate registration is required for each. See the calendar event entries at for registration links.

The webinar schedule of topics: June 6 – Armadillos; June 13 – Tiger beetles; June 20 – Slime molds; June 27 – Milkweed.

The webinars will be recorded and posted to the Nebraska Game and Parks YouTube Education Channel.

Contact [email protected] for more information. Check out the events on Game and Parks’ Facebook page and the Nebraska Project WILD Facebook page.

Wildcat Hills SRA to host Wildflower Week event

Join the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Nebraska Statewide Arboretum for a Wildflower Week plant talk and sunset guided hike June 7 at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area near Gering.

Meet at 6:30 p.m. Mountain time at the Nature Center for the plant talk with Steve Rolfsmeier, director of the High Plains Herbarium at Chadron State College. The 45-minute hike with Rolfsmeier, Game and Parks staff and NSA Horticulture Program Coordinator Bob Henrickson will follow.

Snacks and water will be provided; prepare to hike over uneven terrain. This free event is open to the public.

Venture Parks to host SRA Saturdays

Park educators will be out and about at Nebraska’s state recreation areas along the Platte River on select Saturdays this summer. Visitors are invited to join them.

There will be an observation station and a variety of outdoor activities to explore. Look for the naturalist table and stop by any time between 1 and 3:30 p.m.

The stops will be June 8 at Louisville SRA (meet at the park shelter across from concessions) and June 22 at Two Rivers SRA (meet at the shelter north of Lakeside Campground).

Apply for Master Naturalist Training

Complete the weeklong training to become a certified Nebraska Master Naturalist. This Complete Training June 9-15 at Cedar Point Biological Station near Ogallala has limited available spots.

Content areas can include natural resource interpretation, conservation biology and ecology, outdoor skills, resource management, citizen science, reptiles, amphibians, turtles, mammals, insects, aquatic ecosystems, geology, grasslands ecology, woodland ecology, and human dimensions/naturalist ethics.

The Nebraska Master Naturalist Program is an adult conservation and environmental education program combining indoor presentations and hands-on field experiences to teach conservation volunteers about Nebraska’s natural resources.

For more information or to apply, visit the calendar event entry at Email any questions to [email protected].

Birding for Everybody and Every Body is June 15

Birding for Everybody and Every Body, set for 2 p.m. June 15 at Rock Creek Station State Historical Park near Fairbury, is a birding activity accessible and inclusive.

Rock Creek will welcome birders of all abilities, including beginners and families with small children, to a guided bird-watching tour hosted by Nebraska Birdability captain Cassandra Dean. Join the outing, which covers mowed grass trails of about a mile in length, or view birds at feeding stations from the comfort of the Visitor Center lobby.

Contact the park for more information at [email protected] or 402-729-5777.

Schramm Pollinator Party is June 15

Celebrate Nebraska pollinators and their plants at the Schramm Pollinator Party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 15.

This free event at the Schramm Education Center near Gretna, part of a statewide celebration of Nebraska Pollinator Week, will include activities, science, crafts, a plant sale and fun for all ages. Admission costs will apply for any visitors wishing to explore the Education Center in addition to the event.

Direct any questions about the event to Jen Ruyle at 402-332-5022 or [email protected]. For more information, see the calendar event entry at

Homeschool Hikes set for June 19 at Schramm

Homeschool families are invited to join an outdoor educator on a guided hike at Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna during the Homeschool Hikes program at 9 a.m. June 19. This month's theme is Pollinators.

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

Wildcat Hills SRA to host educator workshop

Nebraska educators of grades 5-12 are invited to the Legacy in Environment Education Discovery Workshop at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area June 24-25. This free workshop will investigate the shortgrass prairie ecosystem.

Teachers of all subjects will find this workshop useful. Participants will receive knowledge to use when incorporating local ecology into their curriculum. They will be doing hands-on natural resource activities such as a bighorn sheep tour, bird watching, geology, learning about reptiles, plant walk, and much more.

This workshop, limited to 20 participants, includes all meals and lodging. Registration ends June 14.

See the calendar event entry at to register. Email [email protected] with questions.

June packed with fun park events for the family

Spend some time this summer in Nebraska’s state parks. During June, a variety of events are planned for those for all ages and interests.

Don’t forget to purchase a vehicle park entry permit to enter the state parks. Get one at or at state park entrances.

Walter Scott Jr. Lodge opening at Platte River SP

The Walter Scott Jr. Lodge at Platte River State Park near Louisville is open for the season and serving meals.

A Sunday Buffet is being served from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday Steak Night will be from 4-8 p.m. and begins May 25. Friday Pizza Night will be from 4-8 p.m. and starts June 7.

Call the park for more information at 402-234-2217.

Rock Creek Trail Days scheduled for June 1-2

Explore a place where road ranches served pioneers along the Oregon-California Trail, Pony Express riders carried mail across the West, and Wild Bill Hickok began a legendary career as a gunfighter. Rock Creek Trail Days is set for June 1-2 at Rock Creek Station State Historical Park near Fairbury.

The event will be open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 1 and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. June 2. Scheduled events include Pony Express demonstrations and a narration of the Hickok-McCandles incident at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. June 1 and 1 p.m. June 2.

A free-will donation pulled-pork sandwich lunch will be from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. June 1. At 7 p.m., there will be a buffalo stew cookout and guest speaker Chris Sayre will share songs brought to Nebraska by various European ethnic groups. The visitor center will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day.

Living History Weekend at Fort Atkinson is June 1-2

Travel 200 years back in time and experience history on the Great Plains at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park near Fort Calhoun. The park will celebrate its Bicentennial Anniversary during its June 1-2 Living History Weekend.

Volunteers can watch or help reenactors plant crops, including corn, beans and squash. Guest speaker Nancy Gillis from Nebraska Humanities discuss women in the fur trade. Reenactors will demonstrate 1820s surgical procedures, and visitors can interact with reenactors portraying ethnic groups at the fort.

Ongoing demonstrations featuring military and civilian life of the 1820s will occur from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. throughout the park. Reenactors portray fur traders, coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, tinsmiths, weavers and other period trades. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the reenactors.

Admission to the Harold W. Andersen Visitor Center is $4 for those age 13 and older and $1 for children 3-12. For more information, contact the park at [email protected] or 402-468-5611.

Author event at Ponca State Park June 6

Enjoy a summer author event co-hosted by the Ponca Carnegie Library and Ponca State Park featuring authors and editors Ryan Allen and Brian T. Hazlett at 7 p.m. June 6. This free event will be held in the Oxbow Room of the park’s Resource and Education Center.

Allen and Hazlett will discuss “On Common Ground: Learning and Living in the Loess Hills.” This is a collection of essays, poetry, and art inspired when they brought together writers, scientists, theologians, artists, poets and students to explore and reflect upon the threatened landscape of the Loess Hills. The book is a mix of information about the plants, animals, soils, and weather of the Missouri River valley and the Loess Hills that surround the river.

Chadron State Park to celebrate 103rd anniversary

Chadron State park will celebrate its 103rd anniversary June 7-8.

June 7’s schedule includes food vendors, a beer garden and live music. On June 8, the day starts with the Run for the Hills road races. There also will be paddle boat rides, a car/bike/truck show, craft vendors, canoe regatta, food vendors, beer garden, and various exhibits.

For more information, call the park at 308-432-6167, or to view a full schedule, see the calendar event listing at

Enders Outdoor Extravaganza set for June 8

Come to Enders Reservoir State Recreation Area south of Imperial on June 8 and enjoy a full day of activities for all ages with the Enders Outdoor Extravaganza.

This family-friendly event, which will celebrate 50 years of hunter education in Nebraska, will take place at the Area A Campground from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mountain time.

Activities will include a 5K run, craft show, tractor show, Dutch oven cooking, BBQ smoke-off, outdoor games, kayaking, petting zoo, bounce house, live music, and more.

For more information on the day’s schedule of events, see the calendar event listing at

Learn kayaking at Red Willow SRA

Learn to kayak June 12 at Red Willow State Recreation Area near McCook during Family Fun Night.

Instructors and volunteers will be on hand from 6-8 p.m. to teach guests everything they need to know about kayaking. All equipment, including life jackets, will be provided, but participants may bring their own life jackets. Meet at the boat launch near the marina.

A s’mores station will be set up, with a campfire, ingredients and roasting sticks.

June 15 is National Marina Days at Lewis and Clark SRA

Enjoy National Marina Days, a summerlong celebration, on June 15 at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area near Crofton.

The daylong schedule starts with yoga at 9 a.m. From 1-4 p.m. there will be fish-cleaning demonstrations, a fishing clinic, boat tours, touch tanks, ranger station, water safety, bounce house, lure making, bass catching, and a scavenger hunt. Hayrack rides will be given from 6-8 p.m.

For more information, call the park at 402-388-4169, or see the calendar event listing at

Enjoy stargazing at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Come to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park near Ashland on June 15 and enjoy some summer stargazing.

Telescopes will be provided so visitors may get a glimpse at the night sky beginning at dusk. Meet behind the park’s golf shack for this free event. Remember to bring camp chairs or blankets.

Bob Tichota Fire Prevention Fun Day is June 15

Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area will host the Bob Tichota Fire Prevention Fun Day on June 15.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the group lodge on Lake No. 16, visit with local rural fire departments, law enforcement, Omaha Public Power District, and other safety entities to learn about fire safety awareness and firefighter and law enforcement job duties.

For the kids, there will be fire truck rides, free food, face painting, seat belt simulator, and much more.

Tichota was a volunteer firefighter and fire prevention advocate. He also was a campground host at Fremont Lakes for more than 25 years.

Pony Express re-ride exchange at Rock Creek Station SHP

Come to Rock Creek Station State Historical Park on June 18 for the 2024 Pony Express Re-Ride Exchange.

Each June, the National Pony Express Association recreates the Pony Express in a commemorative re-ride. Letters are carried by horseback over the original trail stretching from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The 1,966-mile, eight-state event is conducted 24 hours a day over a 10-day period until complete. On June 18, riders will exchange the mail at Rock Creek Station’s East Ranch at approximately 1:45 p.m. The re-ride will reach Fort Kearny State Historical Park on June 19 at approximately 6 a.m.

Arrive early, as the times are estimates and the Pony can be ahead of or behind schedule.

Visit for a complete ride schedule and to track the ride as it happens.

Contact the park for more information at [email protected] or 402-729-5777.

Take a Round Raft Adventure at Schramm

Visit Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna on June 25 and go on a Round Raft Adventure.

Round Rafts are the perfect watercraft for floating around in a pond. Look for the Round Raft Adventure trailer in the park from 3-6 p.m.

Rafters must fit in a life jacket to participate (sizes XXS to 4XL).

Gypsy Cowbelle presenting at Fort Kearny SHP

Visit Fort Kearny State Historical Park on June 26 for a 1 p.m. presentation on Modern Day Homesteaders by Miss V, the Gypsy Cowbelle.

Miss V offers intriguing glimpses into American culture, history and lore. Her musical performances pair a diverse selection of original ballads with traditional cowboy, country and Americana covers. Compelling lyrics accompanied by solid rhythms on the guitar and her homemade plank banjo define her signature “Genuine Cowbilly” sound.

Explore Nature at Nightfall at Schramm

The Schramm Education Center near Gretna will host Nature at Nightfall at 5 p.m. June 28.

This an evening celebration of nature is a chance to meet live animals, view the night sky, go on a night hike, observe bat netting science, discover moths, find pond critters and more. At arrival, look for park staff handing out program maps with a list of activities. 

The education center will be open late, from 5-8 p.m., with special education-rate admission fees of $2.50 youth, $3 adults, 3 and under are free. No permit is needed to park at the education center.

Get muddy at Mahoney on June 29

Come to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park on June 29 and get muddy! It’s Mudville from noon to 5 p.m. at the Outdoor Pavilion. Just don’t forget to bring a change of clothes.

Make mud pies and mud art, dig in dirt and discover the slip-and-slide with a very muddy twist. Just dress for a muddy mess.

Boat safe this summer with these top tips

With the kickoff to summer rapidly approaching, Nebraska Game and Parks reminds boaters to brush up on safety rules in preparation for peak boating season.

Follow these 10 tips reduce the risk of incidents and help ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

Take a boater safety course — Though it’s only a legal requirement for those born after Dec. 31, 1985, consider completing the Nebraska boating safety course to learn the top things you need to know about navigating Nebraska waters, what to do in an emergency and more. Find an in-person or online class at; search for “boater education.”

Check equipment — Before you launch, ensure your boat or kayak is in good running condition and all essential equipment is present, including a life jacket for every person on board. Paddlers of kayaks or canoes also should physically inspect their planned take-out point to make sure it is accessible.

Tell someone your plans — Before leaving home, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Consider carrying a cellphone in a waterproof pouch, as well, in case an emergency occurs.

Wear a life jacket — Make your life jacket a statement piece and wear it, as it does no good stowed away if an emergency occurs. Children under age 13, those using personal watercraft and those being towed on skis or similar device must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device; it’s required by the law. Life jackets also are required for all paddleboard users, no matter their age.

Be wary of surroundings — According to the National Safe Boating Council, nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2022 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout. Pay attention to other boats, personal watercraft, swimmers, stumps and other hazards. Speeds in excess of 5 mph are prohibited if within 30 yards of any other vessel, swimming area or dock. If padding a kayak or canoe, be aware of possible debris below the surface or under bridges.

Have all required safety equipment — Life jackets, throw cushions, fire extinguishers and bailing devices are required on most boats. An engine-cut-off device or switch also is a good idea.

Avoid alcohol — Nearly one-third of all recreational boating fatalities occur when someone is Boating Under the Influence, a criminal violation enforced in Nebraska. Always designate a sober driver.

Watch the weather — Storms can pop up quickly in Nebraska. Check the weather in advance and monitor it during the day, if necessary.

Avoid hypothermia — Even though temperatures are rising, the water still can be cold. Hypothermia is caused by exposure to cold weather or water. Take caution to prevent hypothermia.

Keep it legal — Make sure you’ve registered your boat and, if a nonresident, purchase an Aquatic Invasive Species stamp at Also remember anyone operating a motorboat or personal watercraft in Nebraska must be at least 14 years of age. Learn more about Nebraska’s boating regulations at; search “Go boating.”

National Safe Boating Week is May 18-24 and serves as the annual kick-off of the Safe Boating Campaign, a global awareness effort that encourages boaters to make the most of their boating adventure by being responsible.

Follow these tips to enjoy peak camping season

Nothing says camping season has arrived more than Memorial Day weekend, the three-day kickoff to summer.

With a little advanced planning campers can find their perfect site for memorable outdoor experiences all summer long.

Nebraska state parks offer both reservation-only spots and first-come, first-served ones. Find a park, plan a trip or make a reservation at There you also can use the “Find a Park” tool to discover parks with amenities or activities that match your interests.

Once you’ve popped your tent or parked your recreation vehicle, follow these Nebraska Game and Parks reminders to keep camping fun and safe this summer:

Arrive early: Consider arriving early in the week to claim a first-come, first-served site that meets your needs.

Be patient: Memorial Day weekend is a historically busy one in state parks, but as camping interest has boomed, many weekends can be busy at larger state park locations. Practice patience and understanding with fellow campers and park staff.

Wear life jackets: When boating, paddleboarding or swimming wear a personal floatation device. If swimming, only swim in designated beach areas.

Pack a fishing pole: Fishing is fun for all ages. Youth ages 16 and under don’t need a permit to fish. Adults can buy a one-day or annual fishing permit online.

Practice campfire safety: Guests should call park areas before arrival to determine whether a burn ban is in effect. Where campfires are allowed, use designated fire rings, never leave a fire unattended, keep water nearby, and extinguish completely before leaving.

Do not bring firewood with you: Transporting firewood can spread diseases and harmful insects such as the emerald ash borer. Buy local firewood and leave any unused firewood at the campsite for others.

Arrive before dark: Arriving at your campsite before dark gives you time to set up camp while it’s still light out. And when possible, don’t pack up and leave too early in the morning.

Don’t cut through occupied campsites: Stay on paths or roadways and give all your camping neighbors some privacy.

Observe quiet hours: In most state park campgrounds, quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day.

Be weather aware: Check the forecast and stay aware of changing conditions. Many parks have restrooms that double as tornado shelters, but don’t be afraid to pack up to avoid a storm.

Remember a vehicle park entry permit is required and gives you unlimited access for the calendar year to Nebraska’s state parks. Buy one in advance at, at the park, or at statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors.