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Afield and Afloat

‘The basics’ weigh heavy in boat safety

Lake Minatare water scooter

As the temperature heats up, so does the activity at our lakes. Each summer, Nebraska’s lakes bring great memories to countless visitors who board boats and water scooters. There are few better ways to beat the heat on a summer afternoon than by skimming across the water. Unfortunately, the occasional bad accident puts a damper on the fun – an accident that in most cases could be prevented by taking common safety measures. Scott Eveland of Ogallala has been a …

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Plastic prevalence: Kayaks continue to gain popularity

Kayaks at Carter P. Johnson Lake

Just over a decade ago, I purchased a kayak from an outfitter in Texas — the nearest place I could find what I wanted. For quite a while after that, it seemed I was the only one on the water up this way using this type of vessel for fishing. That’s changed. It has been fun watching the popularity of these boats grow. While I certainly have enjoyed my big green hunk of plastic for its convenience, functionality and price, …

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‘Granddaddy of them all’ remains a gem

This is a big week for Chadron State Park,  the Nebraska attraction I call the “granddaddy of them all.” Chadron State Park. The park, which serves as a serene Pine Ridge getaway, gets that designation for being the first state park in a system that now has 77 diverse properties throughout Nebraska. On June 9, Chadron State Park will celebrate its 97th anniversary, and consequently the 97th anniversary of our state park system. The park actually got its beginning 99 …

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Fort Robinson all saddled up for summer

Fort Robinson Rodeo

Nebraska has eight state parks and another 69 properties within our state park system. The largest of all of these is right in our neighborhood – the 22,000-acre Fort Robinson State Park. One of the most challenging questions people not overly familiar with our region ask is, “What is there to do at Fort Robinson?” That is certainly not because I am hard-pressed to find things for  them to do at the former U.S. Cavalry fort. It is because the …

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Pursuing the parks – a great value

Campground Trail at Chadron State Park

It is late May, spring has finally sprung, and only the most ardent of homebodies are not excited about getting outdoors. It is no secret — some of the best places to enjoy that time outdoors is at our state parks. From horseback riding to swimming, the parks are putting their activities and amenities into full gear this month. While the parks may be open and enjoyable year-around, the first official day of the busy season is May 26. I …

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For the love of birds

Black-crowned night heron

If people ask, one group of animals often receives credit for fueling my passion for wildlife photography a little more than the others do. Capturing imagery of mammals, reptiles and amphibians is certainly just as rewarding, but it is often the birds that keep me going.  It seems there are always birds around whenever and wherever I feel the need to shoot a wildlife photo, and with more than 400 species of birds in Nebraska, I still have a lot …

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Wildcat Hills improvements popular

One of the Nebraska state park system’s most modern attractions happens to be in the Panhandle. Those of you who have not visited the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area south of Gering in the past year or so are sure to like what you see when you do. The newly renovated and expanded Nature Center with its interactive displays and event space have been a big hit among visitors, as has the new shooting complex that features targets for a …

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Grassland tribute

Supermoon over Sugarloaf Butte

In the May issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine, you will find a story and photos about one of my favorite places in the Panhandle – an area that might sometimes be overshadowed by its neighbor. The Oglala Grassland is a region in northern Dawes and Sioux counties that borders Nebraska’s stunning Pine Ridge and the South Dakota border. The region is designated one of the Panhandle’s 11 designated biologically unique landscapes in the Natural Legacy Project – the state’s wildlife action …

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Fort Robinson pond project bringing excitement

Among the Panhandle’s best fishing assets are the opportunities in and around Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford. With the 22,000-acre park’s 11 fishponds and coldwater streams in and near there, anglers can seek everything from warm water species such as largemouth bass, catfish and crappie to all species of trout found in Nebraska. Furthermore, the buttes and pine-studded bluffs provide a beautiful scenic backdrop for photos of your catch. As good as the fishing may be, it is sure …

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Teeming with Turkeys

Merriam's Wild Turkey

Nebraskans have become accustomed to seeing wild turkeys from border to border but it has not always been that way. When I was growing up in southwestern Nebraska in the 1970s and ‘80s, it was much more of a rarity to see them. Similar to many wildlife species, wild turkeys are native to Nebraska but factors related to Euro-American settlement wiped them out of the state in the early 1900s. Along with a lot of other wildlife, though, turkeys have …

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