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Fall Into The Great Outdoors

Unquestionably, fall in Nebraska is one of the best times of the year to spend outdoors! The days are getting shorter and the summer heat is waning: the air is crisp; the leaves and other foliage are transforming into canopies of deep orange, bright yellow, and brilliant red; and the fall gardens are abundant with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. If you are looking for new and different opportunities to have fun, burn calories, acquire more Vitamin D, remain active, and maintain fitness, there is scarcely a better time of year to keep yourself and your family busy and healthy.

The brilliant red leaves of smooth sumac in the fall at Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Take Advantage of Fall Weather and Activities

Hiking, walking, running, peddling, pushing and pulling are even more enjoyable when the temperature is lower and the scenery is at its most beautiful. Here are a variety of creative ideas for stepping outside during autumn.

  • Turn leaf-raking and other fall yard work into fun family activities.
  • Pick pumpkins or apples at a local farm, orchard or pumpkin patch.
A youth sits atop a large pumpkin ready for harvest in the pumpkin patch of a large garden along the Elkhorn River in eastern Nebraska. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission..
  • Take a stroll along a haunted trail or through a corn maze.
  • Go on a weekend vacation to one of our Nebraska state park areas; the crowds have left, the weather is cooler, the nights are excellent for sleeping under the stars, and there are still plenty of activities to enjoy such as fall camping, hiking, biking, fishing, geocaching and bird watching.
  • Check the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission website calendar for individual state park events. Naturalist programs, bird watching expeditions, fun Halloween functions, and other themed activities can make getting some fresh air and fitness even more enjoyable.
  • Try accessible parks and trails in your area that you haven’t yet explored. Visit state, city or Natural Resources District (NRD) or websites to get information.
  • Embed yourself in nature and fall foliage colors by floating a nearby water trail (stretch of river).
A kayaker is seen paddling the spring-fed waters of the scenic Niobrara River east of Valentine, NE amid spectacular autumn colors. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
  • Wet a line, catch a fish! Plan a fall fishing trip. Try for fall-stocked, skillet-sized rainbow trout in a public water not far from your home. Autumn is a great time to catch  fish as they vigorously feed building up fat reserves for the coming winter months.
  • As a hunter, broaden your outdoor knowledge, refresh your hunting skills and pursue a different game species. Maybe you’ll go on a quail hunt with bobwhite numbers much increased in the Nebraska countryside!
An upland game bird hunter in Nebraska attempts to down a flushed northern bobwhite quail. Photo courtesy of Mark Davis.
  • Obtain permission from rural landowners to enter stands of moister, more mature woodlands to gather edible, wild fall mushrooms and nuts.
Chicken of the woods (sulfur-colored) fall wild mushroom in southeastern Nebraska woodlands. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Be Prepared and Be Safe

Varying autumn weather in Nebraska calls for flexible clothing needs. Be prepared with layers that can be adjusted if the temperature changes. Keep your head, hands and feet warm and dry, as these areas of the body tend to lose heat easily. Even though you may not feel as thirsty in cooler weather, staying hydrated is just as important as when you are under the hot summer sun when it comes to exercise and play. Fluid, particularly cool water,  also helps in exercise recovery and appetite control. As the fall sun rises later in the mornings and goes down earlier each night, remember to be smart and safe. Go with a partner, carry a cell phone and pepper spray, use a reflective vest and a flashlight, or wear blaze orange clothing, cap lights or a head lamp when you are outside at night, or at dusk or dawn.

Put Fall Colors and Wild Game in Your Diet

The Cornhusker State’s fall season provides a cornucopia of fresh, healthful produce, so it’s an ideal time to work on good eating habits. Visit a local farmer’s market or neighborhood garden. Indulge in pumpkin, squash, eggplant, carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados, beans, broccoli and cauliflower. These contain Vitamins A and C as well as an array of other nutrients – antioxidants to help the body ward off illnesses. Choosing locally grown foods will give you and your family the most nutritional punch since the time between picking and eating is shorter. Freeze what you can’t eat right away so that you can enjoy them throughout the winter. Include wild game in your diet! Find out where you can acquire wholesome, protein-filled, delicious wild game meat in your area. If it is venison you are seeking, use the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Deer Exchange. If you are a hunter, share part of your bountiful harvest of wild game with friends, family members or neighbors. Emphasize that the meat of wild game birds and animals is lean, free-ranging, free of antibiotics, growth hormones or other drugs. Tell them wild game is not genetically modified or in any other way unnaturally “enhanced,” and has been taken in the area or region.

An eggplant is ripe for the picking in the Wagner family vegetable garden in Omaha, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Being active, staying fit and eating healthy are all important to ward off the sedentary accumulation of pounds and feel great! Don’t wait until the new year to make promises for the year ahead. Start early with the beauty of autumn as your guide for overall wellness. Get outdoors!

My toddler-grandson, Jackson Edward Wagner, plays in a pile of raked leaves in his parents yard in Omaha, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media sites, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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