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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.

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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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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