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Bike rentals, refreshed beaches among improvements at southwest state recreation areas

People ride bikes along the Red Willow SRA hike-bike trail.
Volunteers are creating a new hike and bike trail at Red Willow State Recreation Area that expands the current trail by 3 miles to include more scenic views. | Julie Geiser, NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Guests visiting four southwest Nebraska state park areas this year will experience more opportunities for recreation, including with a new hike and bike trail and the chance to borrow bikes at Red Willow Reservoir State Recreation Area.

The four parks — Red Willow, Swanson Reservoir, Enders Reservoir and Rock Creek Lake state recreation areas — all saw a variety of facility improvements.

At Red Willow, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and local organizations are working to expand the hike-bike trails to give visitors a chance to enjoy the most scenic areas of the park, while also giving bike enthusiasts a more challenging ride. Throughout the entire state recreation area, 3 miles of trails have been added in recent months, bringing the total to 6.3 miles.

The McCook Community Foundation, McCook Youth Change Reaction, and other local volunteer groups are assisting on the project.

Donations from the Youth Change Reaction also have propelled a new bicycle loan program for the hike-bike trail; up to 12 bikes will be available for public use.

The Red Willow swim beach is getting a facelift this spring, when 130 tons of new sand will be added to the area. The beach is a regular attraction for families and friends ready to relax and play when temperatures start to soar.

New fish-attracting structures, or Georgia Cubes, have been built with the help of local youth and will be placed near the Willow View cove fishing dock, an American with Disabilities Act compliant pier. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the area that Game and Parks manages, funded the fish structures.

The Red Willow Area boat dock has been refurbished and will be ready for use this spring; it is joined by a new boat dock installed at the Spring Creek Area in 2019.

Swanson Reservoir’s investments included the removal of a section of cottonwood trees on the south side of the lake and west of the swim beach, so new basic campsites could be added. Other campsites also were repaired, as was the swim beach when sand blown by strong winds to the southeast corner of the dam was pushed back into place. These improvements were in-kind by the Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District.

The recreation area’s Trail 7 and Trail 3 each received new concrete vault toilets with accessible parking pads. Trail 7 also is undergoing continual shoreline clearing to improve day-use and camping area opportunities.

Enders will see accessible camping pads added at Center Dam and the Main Area campgrounds this spring. Two new ADA-compliant camping pads have been installed in the area electric campgrounds. Water hydrants also will be installed at these ADA-compliant-pads this spring

Rock Creek Lake underwent a lake renovation, completed in 2020, with the goal of improving angler experiences. The project included a full watershed renovation that removed gizzard shad from the lake so competition with native fish populations would be eliminated. Once water levels returned, the lake was restocked with largemouth bass, black crappie, and yellow perch. Largemouth bass, redear sunfish and channel catfish stockings are requested for 2021.

These projects were made possible through a combination of Capital Maintenance Funds, State Park Improvement Funds, Park Cash Funds and Motorboat Access Funds.

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