In the southeast corner of Nebraska, about four miles from Lincoln, you can find Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area. This park has 2,544 acres of playland with 740 of it being Pawnee Lake. There is so much to do at this place, you are going to need to stay for at least a week to enjoy everything. They have two sandy beaches, six miles of trails, three boat ramps, two docks, and over 200 RV and tent campsites to use.
You will also find a shooting range and archery range so you can brush up on your hunting skills. That way you can come back and enjoy the hunting season at Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area in the fall. If you have a horse, bring them along because there are six miles of trails that you can go riding on at any time of the year. And if you want to have a family get-together, there are two shelters you can rent with tables and BBQ pits. Also, there are 53 picnic tables and over 200 BBQ pits around the park if the shelters are already taken.
The park also has a camp store with a place to rent kayaks and canoes, bait and tackle, and a concession stand by one of the beaches. By the boat docks, you can also find a marina and gas station for your convenience. You will need a state park permit to enter, which you can get online or pick up one at the office when you get here.
Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area is located about 12 miles west of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska and three miles northwest of Emerald, Nebraska, just off Interstate 80 at Exit 388. No matter which direction you are coming from, Nebraska is in the middle of the country so you will not have too far to travel. From the west, take Interstate 80 to Pawnee Lake State Recreation Road. From the east or south, you will also take Interstate 80 and get off at exit 388. And if you are coming in from the north, take Highway 34 to Pawnee Lake State Recreation Road.
Since it is mostly highway, the roads are easily navigated no matter how large your RV is but once you get onto the back road to the park, you will need to slow it down. The roads are quite scenic so have a good look around and ask your passengers to take some pictures of the area to share on Facebook. Deer and other critters sometimes cross these roads so be alert for them at all times, especially at dusk and dawn.
This is a large park with plenty of large parking lots so you will not have any trouble finding spots to park your rig or trailer. However, some of the roads into certain camping areas can be rough so you may just want to park your rig and use foot or pedal power while you are here.
Lake View Campground has 31 spacious reservable campsites; 14 of them have 50 amp. electric hookups and the other 17 have 30 amps. The pad sizes range from 45 to 53 feet in length and they are all back-in sites with picnic tables and fire rings. You will find potable water spigot access by campsites 42 and 49. Also, there is a shower house with hot water in the middle of the non-reservable and reservable campgrounds.
The Lake View Campground also offers 47 first-come, first-served sites with various sized pads. There are other water access stations by campsites three, 26, and 30. A lovely children’s playground is down by campsite 127. Also, there are restrooms by campsites 126 and 130. The lake is just a short walk from all the campsites so you can go swimming or fishing as soon as you get up. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are leashed or otherwise restrained.
This primitive campground has 26 campsites on the southeast corner of the lake. Each site has its own picnic table and fire pit and they are very good-sized spots with shade. These sites are all within a few feet of the lake and there is a boat dock and fish cleaning station nearby for your convenience. There are also two restrooms. One is by the fish cleaning station and the other is by campsite 22. Potable water access can be found by campsites 21 and 39. In addition, there is an RV dump station nearby and pets are allowed as long as they are on a leash or kept restrained at all times.
Pawnee has over six miles of trails for hikers, bikers, or equestrians to enjoy, so get out of the RV and go explore. These are all over the park, some in each camping area and there is one huge one that meanders around the outer perimeter of the lake. You will pass picnic areas, playgrounds, and campgrounds as well as both beaches and boat ramps. Bring along your fishing pole and you can stop and try your luck with the native fish on your way around.
Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area is a very popular place to fish for both locals and visitors from out of town. With over 740 acres of water to fish, you can find the perfect spot for whatever you are looking for. Whether you are fishing from the bank or out on a boat, there are a plethora of different species to entice such as catfish, walleye, bass, and bluegill. And you can clean whatever you catch at the fish cleaning station near Conestoga Campground. So don’t forget to pack the fishing gear in the camper before heading to the park.
Hook the boat trailer to the RV so you can enjoy the over 740 acres of clear blue water in Pawnee Lake. Any kind of boats are welcome as well as wave runners, wakeboarding, skiing, kayaks, or canoes. You can even float around the lake on a raft but make sure you bring a paddle so you can get back to shore because this is a big lake. And wear a life jacket because the water is very deep. There are three boat ramps and two docks for public use.
Saddle up the horses and head out on the trails at Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area. They have more than six miles of trails for equestrians to share with hikers and bikers. You can also find an equestrian camp by the Pawnee Lake Horse Corrals off NW 126th Street and West Superior on the northwestern tip of the lake. You will not find this campground on the map because it is first-come, first-served and does not have any kind of reservable access at all. So if you want to camp with your horse, make sure you get there early.
Hunting at Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area begins on the first Tuesday after Labor Day and you can find all sorts of critters to aim for. Whether you are hunting big game like deer, antelope, elk, or sheep or looking for the little critters like squirrel, ducks, or turkeys, you can find them here. Make sure you know the rules and regulations for Nebraska and have your permit and tags available at all times. So bring your guns or bows and toss the other hunting gear in the camper before heading out.
There is a shooting range in Area One off Pawnee Lake State Recreation Road where you can brush up on your hunting skills so even if it is not hunting season yet, go ahead and pack your guns in the RV anyway. If you would rather use a bow and arrow, Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area also has an archery range you can use in Area Three, which is right off NW 126th Street. Whichever one you choose, make sure you have all of the appropriate licensing and that you know what the guidelines and rules are. And always use safe shooting practices.