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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.

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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Virtual Panhandle BioBlitz is May 1-2

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SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. — The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are inviting the public to survey the natural resources of the region during the Virtual Panhandle BioBlitz May 1-2. A bioblitz is an inventory of species, such as plants, mammals, birds, insects and fungi, in a specific area during a specific period. The free event will begin with a welcome segment May 1 at 9 a.m. MDT. Participants will then be encouraged to explore the …

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Road construction to begin at Chadron State Park

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CHADRON, Neb. — Visitors to Chadron State Park will be greeted with road construction in coming weeks. Beginning April 12 and ending in late May, construction workers will be resurfacing the park’s 5.6 miles of asphalt roads, campsites and other pavement. Gregg Galbraith, park superintendent, said visitors might not be able to access certain areas of the grounds during construction, but that the roads will be much more enjoyable to drive upon when the project is finished. He expects the …

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Campers may reserve sites at Box Butte

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HEMINGFORD, Neb. – Campers planning to visit Box Butte Reservoir State Recreation Area on May 1 and after will be able to reserve a site. Beginning this year, half of the reservoir’s 40 campsites, each of which are located near the shore with a fire ring and picnic table, are being added to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s reservation system. That consists of 13 basic sites with no electricity, six sites with 50-amp electricity and four sites with 20/30-amp …

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Est. 1921 – Chadron State Park

Western Eden, Where It All Began Under the headline of “Western Eden,” the front page of the July 8, 1921, Chadron Journal proclaimed that the Nebraska Legislature had “builded better than it knew” by creating its first state park. “For years to come all of Nebraska’s citizendom can point with honest pride to Nature’s play ground near its western boundary. It is an inspiration to view this locality, and to walk its cool shady paths with the knowledge that it …

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Panhandle, Sandhills offer spring fishing opportunities

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ALLIANCE, Neb. — As the ice melts and days get longer, spring fishing opportunities heat up in western Nebraska. Whether anglers want a Frye Lake crappie or a Fort Robinson trout, Joe Rydell, a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s northwest district, said spring brings diverse angling opportunities throughout the region. From data gathered from last year’s fish surveys and other observations, Rydell has some predictions of where anglers will have success this spring. Some of his …

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Spring equinox is program topic

GERING, Neb. – A virtual program from the Wildcat Hills Nature Center will explore the traditions and celebrations of the spring equinox. The program will be 10 a.m. MST on Saturday, March 13. The spring equinox, which is the astronomical first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, is March 20 this year. After the equinox, the northern half of the globe will begin tilting closer to the sun. Amanda Filipi, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission outdoor education specialist …

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Infrastructure upgrades highlight Lake Minatare projects

MINATARE, Neb. – When camping season hits its stride, visitors to Lake Minatare State Recreation Area will enjoy many improvements that were made in 2020. At Lake View, the area of the park that features the 55-foot lighthouse observation tower, workers have replaced the shower’s wastewater system and upgraded electrical service to campsites. Dan Thornton, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission superintendent who manages the park, said the projects may not be obvious to the naked eye, but that they …

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