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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.

Halloween festivities planned at Fort Robinson

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CRAWFORD, Neb. — Horse-drawn wagon rides, trick-or-treating and a chili feed will highlight the new Haunted Halloween festivities at Fort Robinson State Park on Saturday, Oct. 30. The activities will occur at the park’s Soldier Creek Campground near U.S. Highway 20 from 4:30-7 p.m. For the trick-or-treaters, the park is planning “Camp & Candy” — an activity in which the public is invited to decorate campsites, campers or other vehicles. The wagon rides and chili feed will be based at …

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Nebraska’s Fishing State Park?

When discussing Fort Robinson State Park, fishing may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps it should be. Tall buttes rising over pine forests and sweeping grasslands. Herds of bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and other megafauna. Historical architecture. Theatrical performances, weekly rodeos, two museums, cookouts and an indoor swimming pool. More than 120 miles of trails suited for horse hooves and hiking shoes. With so much to see and do at Fort Robinson State Park, it is …

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Extra incentives available for landowners on CRP

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CHADRON, Neb. — Nebraska Panhandle agriculture producers participating in the Conservation Reserve Program may be eligible to earn extra income by helping the region’s pheasant population and other wildlife. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is offering bonus incentives to CRP participants within certain areas of the Panhandle — locations designated as Pheasant Opportunity Areas in the agency’s Berggren Plan to improve hunting opportunities for the popular game bird. Incentives are available for landowners who are enrolling, re-enrolling or are …

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Blue Lake reopens after long closure

Blue Lake

ALLIANCE, Neb. — A Sandhills fishing destination has reopened after a 28-month closure. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has reopened the access road to Blue Lake in the Sandhills of Garden County. The 2.7-mile two-track trail through private property has been closed since March 2019 because of flooding. Joe Rydell, a fisheries biologist for Game and Parks, said the water level has subsided enough that the trail can be navigated, with caution. This week, he mowed the trail and …

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Floating on the Breeze

A hot air balloon ride is a superb way to enjoy the scenery As Nebraskaland photographers, we do our best to attain the ultimate vantage of a given subject. In an effort to capture the attractive landscapes of western Nebraska, I have taken photos from atop many high buttes and from the cockpit of airplanes and helicopters. My new favorite, though, is the oldest of human-carrying flight technology: hot air balloon. I was not sure what to expect when my …

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Archery, pellet gun range opening during Chadron State Park celebration

Pellet range targets

CHADRON, Neb. — Among the highlights of Chadron State Park’s centennial celebration June 11-12 will be the opening of its new indoor archery and pellet gun range. The grand opening and ribbon cutting is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, June 12. Situated between the park’s office and Trading Post activities center, the 3,100-square-foot building will include both 3-D and bulls-eye archery targets, and a five-station pellet gun range with an automated interactive shooting gallery. The facility has a hunting theme …

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Backpacking the Pine Ridge Trail

An Adventure Story Through work and play, I have been no stranger to the Pine Ridge Trail. Portions of the route that transects the heart of public lands in the Pine Ridge escarpment between Chadron and Crawford have served me well as a way to access scenic landscapes and wildlife, or just enjoy a short hike or bike ride. Though I had been on many parts of the trail, which measures about 40 miles, I had never connected the dots …

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The Beaches of Bridgeport

Five sandpits in the North Platte Valley have created countless memories. One does not have to stray far from home to enjoy one of the Panhandle’s premiere getaways with shady campsites and sandy beaches. The 200-acre Bridgeport State Recreation Area is located along the North Platte River at the northwestern edge of the community for which it is named. It has 78 acres of clear water in five sandpit lakes with more than 70 first-come, first-served basic campsites. The lakes …

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Western Fireworks

In the pursuit of captivating photography, it sometimes pays to aim low. When developing an interest in nature photography years ago, capturing the subjects on these pages were at the bottom of my list. Yet, on countless mornings of taking photos of landscapes and wildlife, there they were: Little bursts of color around my feet. I already knew that pretty sunrises, sunsets and fauna were even more attractive with wildflowers in the scene. Soon, though, I learned a macro lens …

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Chadron State Park campground temporarily closing for construction

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CHADRON, Neb. — Chadron State Park is closing its campground from April 25-28 for its road improvement project. Gregg Galbraith, park superintendent, said the closure will allow workers to pave the roads without interruption and ensure the asphalt has properly cured before being subject to the weight of traffic. He said the campground will reopen the night of April 29 if the work occurs without delay. Galbraith said most campers seeking sites this time of year have been turkey hunters, …

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