Located north of Scribner on Highway 275, Dead Timber State Recreation Area in Mideastern Nebraska is a 200-acre wilderness with plenty of activities to enjoy such as RV and tent camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and hunting. Bring some binoculars, and you can do some birding or wildlife viewing. The main attraction of the park is the Elkhorn River, where you can find many species of fish and other aquatic creatures like turtles and crawdads.
Another popular body of water is the Elkhorn Lake, which is an oxbow lake formed from the Elkhorn River. The lake has a plethora of different fish such as bass, catfish, crappie, carp, and bluegill. You can get out there on a boat too, but it has to be non-powered or electric. You will also find a fish cleaning station and an ADA-accessible boat ramp and dock.
According to the legend, Dead Timber State Recreation Area was the site of an Indian camp and got its name from a campfire that got out of control, burning most of the forest there. The Shawnee Indians had camped along the Elkhorn River before retreating to the river bluffs and then to the Elkhorn Lake, which was formed from erosion and hydraulic action.
In Scribner, Nebraska, about an hour south of Sioux City, Iowa or 1.5 hours north of Lincoln, you can find the spacious and historic Dead Timber State Recreation Area. If you are coming from Scribner, you can take US Highway 275 north, or from the north you can take the same highway about seven miles south to the entrance on Dead Timber Recreation Road.
If you are pulling a trailer or driving a large campervan or RV, you will need to be careful and go slow because the roads are very curvy and can be dangerous. If it is raining or snowing, you should call ahead to make sure the roads going into the park are accessible. As long as you are careful, you should be okay. However, you also need to keep an eye out for the wildlife that sometimes cross on these roads.
The roads in the Dead Timber State Recreation Area are mostly well cared for and maintained but some are narrow with large trees, so you need to watch for low hanging branches. Also, the roads into the campground are gravel and could have potholes so it may be a bumpy ride. It is best to park your RV at your campsite when you get here and just walk anywhere you want to go.
At Elkhorn Campground you can find 17 camping pads with electrical hookups (20/30-amp) on the southeastern edge of the Elkhorn Lake. If you want to be right on the lake, sites 10 through 17 are just a few steps away. Each campground has a picnic table, fire ring, and a pad large enough to accommodate RVs and campers up to 50 feet long. There is also a vault toilet and a hand pump hydrant for potable water in the middle of the campground.
There is also a playground for the kids in the middle of the campground and several picnic shelters around the park. These are first-come, first-served campsites so no reservations are needed but it is best to get there early during the peak season and on weekends. There is a camping registration building at the entrance to the campground where you can pay for your spot. Dogs are welcome but they must be leashed or in a kennel at all times.
Are you a fan of boating or floating? Whether you want to float down the Elkhorn River on a tube, canoe, or raft, or explore the Elkhorn Lake in a boat powered with a trolling motor, Dead Timber State Recreation Area has lots of space for everyone. There are miles of river access and 50 acres of lake for you and your family or friends to enjoy. If you are looking for a place to fish, both bodies of water are known to have an abundance of all kinds of fish species so make sure you pack the poles in the rig.
Pack all your friends and family into the RV and head to Dead Timber State Recreation Area for a picnic and stay for the night or the weekend. This park has three picnic shelters that hold about 50 people each and one of them has electricity. There is one on the northwest end of the park, one at the southwestern section, and two in the southeastern section. Each shelter has grills and picnic tables. Also, there are 25 picnic tables and 15 grills located around the park for public use.
Pack the fishing gear in your rig before heading to Dead Timber State Recreation Area because you have a choice of fishing in the Elkhorn River or Lake. Both bodies of water are full of a large variety of fish and other aquatic critters so you should have no trouble catching something. Use a river pole, heavy weights, and live bait in the river if you are looking for a huge catfish, carp, or drum. Or you can use some light tackle and artificial lures or worms in the lake where you can find largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie.
You didn’t come to the park just to sit in the camper, did you? Get out there in the woods and explore some nature. There are several trails around the park. The Elkhorn Valley Trail meanders along the Elkhorn River through the sandhills and Elkhorn Valley. The Nature Trail begins at the southwestern end of the Elkhorn Lake and heads through the woods and into the areas of dead timber. You can see a variety of wildlife along your way including deer, foxes, raccoons, and hundreds of species of birds.
Hunting is allowed in certain areas of the park as well as the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area, which connects to the park. Check with the park employees for more information about where to hunt. You can find plenty of wildlife viewing blinds that make perfect hunting blinds during hunting season. According to the Nebraska Game and Park Commission, you can find ducks, turkey, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and maybe even some elk, antelope, and sheep in the two parks. Be sure to check the rules and regulations and have an up-to-date hunting tag and license.
Dead Timber State Recreation Area has a plethora of feathered critters and they are even more plentiful during the off season so pack those binoculars in the camper and put on your long johns. There are many different raptors such as the red-shouldered hawk, bald eagles, and vultures. And if you want to see (and hear) some songbirds, the park is home to the summer tanager, lazuli bunting, several varieties of warblers, the eastern towhee, and Baltimore oriole. You can also see a lot of different waterfowl and woodpeckers.