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Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area

Serenity in southwestern Nebraska

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An aerial photo shows Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area in Dundy County.

Story and Photos by Julie Geiser

At the very southwestern corner of Nebraska in Dundy County lies a truly serene area that is sure to surprise those that venture there. Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area is a small 54-acre area, with a 50-acre lake fed by the cold spring waters of Rock Creek.

Located 4 miles north and a mile east of Parks, Nebraska, this quaint SRA has primitive camping only at roughly 43 non-pad sites, one vault toilet and five primitive restrooms. A new water well is slated for completion this summer. The area offers numerous picnic tables and grills for both day use and camping.

The lake opened in 1935 and was an 80-acre body of water that was the deepest lake in the state at the time. Back then the lake was stocked with bass, trout, crappies and bullheads.
Currently, the lake’s fishery is on the rebound after going through a renovation.

Paislee Erickson, right and Elyn Bargmann reach for the last light of the sun from one of the fishing nodes. The nodes are great for picnicking as well.
Paislee Erickson, right and Elyn Bargmann reach for the last light of the sun from one of the fishing nodes. The nodes are great for picnicking as well.

In 2019, fish surveys showed significant declines in abundance and growth of largemouth bass and other sport fish due to the high numbers of gizzard shad in the lake. In 2020, the lake underwent a fish renovation to improve water quality and sportfish potential by eliminating the shad. Sport fish were salvaged from the lake before rotenone was applied to remove undesirable fish. In an effort to prevent accidental introduction of gizzard shad again, a “No Live Baitfish” regulation is now in place.

The lake was restocked last fall with largemouth bass, black crappie and yellow perch. Adult redear sunfish along with adult largemouth bass and channel catfish are planned to be stocked this year. Rainbow and tiger trout will not be stocked back into the lake until spring of 2022 to allow the stocked fish to gain a good foothold.

Typically, Rock Creek is one of Nebraska’s great trout fisheries and is known for holding some of the biggest largemouth bass around. Sean Farrier, fisheries biologist for the lake, is confident the lake will return as a trophy fishery: “About year three after a renovation, the fish will take off, and we’ll be seeing some of those bigger fish again,” he said.

Boats can launch from the boat ramp and dock that is visible when you enter the SRA. All boats are allowed at Rock Creek, and it’s not uncommon to see large bass boats to smaller jon boats and kayaks on the no-wake lake.

Whether it’s fishing, camping, hiking or a quiet place to relax, consider Rock Creek SRA this summer.

Rock Creek Hatchery

Rock Creek State Fish Hatchery sits just north of the SRA at the headwaters of Rock Creek. Established in 1924 because of the abundant coldwater spring flow. It is one of five state fish hatcheries operated by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Rock Creek Hatchery produces nearly half of the trout stocked annually in Nebraska. Rainbow, brown, and hybrid tiger trout, are a staple at the hatchery. Other fish raised at the hatchery include: wipers, bluegill, bluegill green sunfish hybrids, rock bass, yellow perch, redear sunfish, and grass carp.

These trout swim in a hatchery pond at Rock Creek hatchery and will soon be stocked into Nebraska waters.
These trout swim in a hatchery pond at Rock Creek hatchery and will soon be stocked into Nebraska waters.
Rock Creek Hatchery is overseen by Julie Fraley, the state’s first woman fish production manager. Fraley started working at the hatchery in 2012 before earning her new position there.

The hatchery is open to the public. To schedule a tour, call (308) 423-2080, or check out our latest video on the hatchery on the Commission’s YouTube channel.

About julie geiser

Julie Geiser is a Public Information Officer and NEBRASKAland Regional Editor based out of North Platte, where she was born and still happily resides. Geiser worked for the commission previously for over 10 years as an outdoor education instructor – teaching people of all ages about Nebraska’s outdoor offerings. She also coordinates the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program for Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC). Geiser went on to work in marketing and writing an outdoor column for the North Platte Telegraph before returning to NGPC in her current position. She loves spending time outdoors with her family and getting others involved in her passions of hunting, fishing, camping, boating, hiking and enjoying Nebraska’s great outdoors.

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