Union Pacific State Recreation Area boasts over 26 acres of space and a 12-acre lake to enjoy in south-central Nebraska. You can spend the day boating, fishing, or swimming and then head back to your RV in one of the five campsites for a night of campfire stories and s'mores. The lake has been known to have some huge lunkers such as channel catfish, walleye, and smallmouth bass. You can also catch bluegill, sunfish, and perch.
If you are wanting to do some boating, make sure you bring a trolling motor or some paddles because no gas motors are allowed on the lake. They have a gravel boat launch ramp, but no dock, and boats are restricted to five miles per hour, which makes fishing much better. Union Pacific State Recreation Area also has three picnic shelters with tables and BBQ pits and there are eight picnic tables and three grills on the northern end of the lake.
Located close to the historic City of Kearney, you have easy access to shopping and various restaurants. You may also enjoy visiting the Museum of Nebraska Art where you can learn a great deal about the culture of the area. Pack up the RV and head to Union Pacific State Recreation Area today for some fun.
Just three hours east of Omaha, two hours east of Lincoln, and only a half hour south from Odessa, you can find Union Pacific State Recreation Area right off Interstate 80 and Highway 10B. If you are coming from Lincoln, take Highway 34 west to Interstate 80 west until you get to exit 263. Coming from the north, take Highway 30 south to 44 south until you get to Interstate 80 and look for exit 263.
When you get off the highway and onto Odessa, you will find that the roads, while nicely maintained, can be tricky when pulling a camper or in a large RV. If you are coming to the park during the winter or early spring, be especially aware of road conditions as the winters here can be icy, making the roads even more treacherous. Go slow and enjoy the scenery of the Platte Valley and Rainwater Basin as well as the plethora of wildlife in the area.
The park itself is small, at only 26 acres, and you will find limited parking and narrow roads with low hanging branches during certain times of the year. During the summer, you will need to get there early if you want to stay in one of the five campsites.
If you are wanting to camp at Union Pacific State Recreation Area Campground, you better get there early! There are only five campsites and they are first-come, first-served so if you want a place to park your RV overnight or for up to two weeks at this park, you are going to have to get there before the birds wake up, especially during the spring and summer and on the weekends. That being said, if you are lucky enough to get a spot, you will be happy you did. Each of these spacious and shaded campsites are primitive but have a picnic table, fire ring, and lots of privacy. You can find a modern restroom with a water fountain and spigot in the northeast section of the park and a vault pit latrine in the far eastern section. The lake is just a short walk from each of the campsites and there are three picnic shelters if you want to enjoy a meal with other friends and family while you are there. Pets are welcome but they must be leashed or otherwise sheltered while at the park.
Pack up the RV with all your goodies and don’t forget the fishing gear because the lake here at Union Pacific State Recreation Area has an abundance of hungry fish waiting for you. You can find smallmouth bass, perch, redear sunfish, and bluegill. These fish bite best early in the morning on artificial lures, jigs, or spoons. If you are looking for something bigger like a catfish, put a weight and some live bait on your hook and sit back and wait. This works best in the evenings and at night. For walleye, you will need to go at dusk or dawn because these fish have excellent eyesight.
Hook the boat trailer up to the camper but make sure you are prepared to use a trolling motor or paddles because this is an electric motor lake that does not allow gas motors at all. This is actually excellent for those who like to fish, and it makes for a much calmer and quieter place to enjoy. You can just float around the lake in a kayak, raft, or canoe if you want. It is only 12 acres so you will not wear yourself out paddling when necessary.
If you are into mountain biking or just riding your bicycle with the family, Union Pacific State Recreation Area is a great place for that. With all the dirt roads and paths through the park, you and your family and friends can explore deep into the woods or ride all the way to Platte River, which is about three miles south of the campground. You can also ride the trail around the lake, which is approximately one mile. However, watch out for those who are walking on the trail or fishing.
Union Pacific State Recreation Area invites you and your family and friends to get in your RV and enjoy a picnic here during the off season. This is the best time for those who are not worried about the cooler weather but enjoy the peace and quiet of a practically empty park. With three picnic shelters, you will certainly be able to find one that you like. There is one on the northeast corner of the lake, one in the north central area, and one on the northwestern section of the lake. You can also find eight picnic tables and three BBQ grills in various areas of the park.
Although there are no officially named trails at Union Pacific State Recreation Area, there are many paths throughout the woods around the campground, near the picnic areas, and in various areas around the lake. There is no reason to just sit in the camper while you are here. Get out and enjoy the fresh air and see what kind of wildlife is running around. There is also a gravel path that meanders along the outside of the lake. It is about one mile and is typically not crowded during the off season.
From February to April, this park and the surrounding area is a popular spot for birders and nature lovers alike. Every year, over 600,000 Sandhill Cranes converge on the Platte Valley and Platte River area. These gorgeous birds stop in Nebraska to rest on their way to their northern breeding ground in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada from their southern winter grounds. You can also see a plethora of different waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and shorebirds as well as Whooping Cranes and eagles. Make sure you pack the camera in the RV before coming so you can get plenty of pictures.