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Walgren Lake among July magazine topics

Sunrise at Walgren Lake
The sun rises over Walgren Lake in May. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

The July issue of NEBRASKAland magazine is out and in it you will find a little story about one of the Panhandle’s quiet out-of-the-way places to fish and camp – Walgren Lake State Recreation Area. My family and I often bank on Walgren, located just southeast of Hay Springs, for a quick fishing trip or an overnighter.

The article highlights much of the lake’s colorful history, dating back to the 1920s when the state fish and game agency obtained ownership of it. And, no story about Walgren Lake would be complete without mention of the “monster” that was reported lurking below the water’s surface just before that time.

Milky Way over Walgren Lake
The Milky Way hangs over the calm waters of Walgren Lake. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

One story not told in that article is how I captured the issue’s cover photograph – a night scene over the lake’s calm water. All of you astrophotographers know that a moonlit sky, as was the case when my family and I retired to the tent that July 2 evening, is not the best for capturing an image of the Milky Way. After looking at a couple of apps on my phone, I learned an opportunity would open up later that night. An app called Daff Moon told me that moonset was scheduled for 1:56 a.m. and another called Stellarium showed me that the Milky Way would be visible in the southern sky and perpendicular to the lake’s surface at that time.

So, when my alarm went off at 2 a.m., I rolled out of my sleeping bag, grabbed the camera and tripod and took a short walk down to boat ramp. Sure enough, the Milky Way was right were the app said it would be and the moon had retired for the night.

With the improved light sensitivity of today’s cameras and the help of tools such as those phone apps, my ventures in night photography have become much more successful than they used to be. As with most of my work, it’s Mother Nature who deserves the credit, though.

If you take a trip to this special lake at the edge of the Sandhills, may you experience as peaceful of a scene as I did that night when the water was smooth as silk and stars decorated “nature’s ceiling” from horizon to horizon.

Along with the many other great articles by my friends and coworkers in the July issue, there is also a travel guide for northwestern Nebraska produced by the Nebraska Tourism Commission. It touches on many of the remarkable sites that we residents get to experience throughout the year.

Another item of regional note is Gerry Steinauer’s photo essay featuring some of those beautiful wildflowers that add to the natural splendor of the Sandhills.

And, just in time for the holiday there’s a little story about a timed exposure photograph of my daughter with a sparkler that I shot last Fourth of July. Not a lot of planning went into it, but with her mother’s coaching she did a great job creating the most important part of the image. Because of our teamwork, it has to be one of my all-time favorite photographs.

Speaking of photographs, here are some others of Walgren Lake and last year’s Fourth of July.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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