11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Lincoln, NE

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The lakes around Lincoln offer a wide choice of recreational opportunities. From fishing and swimming to waterskiing and paddleboarding, the selection of fun activities is amazing here.

And the best thing is, all the options on the list are within 30 minutes drive. Despite the proximity, most offer campgrounds and free primitive campsites, making weekend getaways easy. 

In winter, many of the lakes provide ice fishing, ice skating, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. 

Whatever your hobby, Lincoln has it. Check out what the city has to offer!

Lakes near Lincoln:

  1. Holmes Lake
  2. Oak Lake
  3. Pawnee Lake
  4. Conestoga Lake
  5. Yankee Hill Lake
  6. Bluestem Lake
  7. Wagon Train Lake
  8. Stagecoach Lake
  9. Olive Creek Lake
  10. Twin Lakes
  11. Wildwood Lake
Lakes near Lincoln Nebraska Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Holmes Lake

Lake in Nebraska on a sunny day
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Holmes Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 6 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Walking, Biking, Picnics

Located within Lincoln’s city limits southeast of downtown, Holmes Lake took shape in 1962 after the US Army Corps of Engineers created it for recreation and flood control. 

The city’s parks and recreation department manages the 110-acre lake and surrounding parkland, which have become a popular destination in the city. 

Holmes Lake Park offers a variety of activities. In addition to fishing, this park has a trail system, golf course, sports fields, and picnic areas. 

One structure not usually found in city parks is Hyde Observatory at Holmes Park, which opened in 1977 with regular programs about astronomy. 

Water quality deterioration became an issue in Holmes Lake Park by the 1990s. However, remedial efforts have improved this situation. 

Swimming is not permitted in the lake, but casting a line in the water is popular. Anglers regularly catch walleye, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, bluegill, and channel catfish. 

2. Oak Lake

Oak Lake Park Sunset in lincoln Nebraska
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Oak Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 3 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Walking, Biking, Picnics

Located less than 3 miles north of downtown, Oak Lake is a popular destination within Oak Lake Park. Slightly larger than 185 acres, the park first became popular in the 1940s when the lake was much more shallow and known as Oak Creek Lake. 

Only four feet deep at the time, the creek became crowded after conservation officials began regularly stocking it. 

During its early years, the lake sat adjacent to the former county dump. A watery mecca in an area surrounded by stark prairie, the addition of trees and improved facilities continued in the mid-20th century after the dump closed in the 1950s. 

Fishing, non-motorized boating, and winter ice skating are popular activities there today.

The park hosts the Uncle Sam Jam, an annual Fourth of July celebration. 

Stocking of fish continues, and those who fish at Oak Lake should try their luck at catching largemouth bass, black bullhead, and common carp. 

3. Pawnee Lake

Pawnee Lake Nebraska
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Pawnee Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 11 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Rowing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

At approximately 740 acres, Pawnee Lake is the centerpiece of the Pawnee State Recreation Area. This 2,544-acre recreation area – located less than 15 miles west of Lincoln – attracts a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, including birdwatchers, hikers, horse riders, boaters, anglers, and hunters. 

This state-managed site has two areas set aside for summertime swimming. It serves as a great escape from Lincoln’s urban core that is only a few miles away, whether for a day-long visit or an overnight experience. 

The site’s Lake View Campground on the north end of Pawnee Lake has a reputation for offering a quiet and tranquil experience near the lake. 

Anglers will enjoy time along Pawnee Lake. There are two docks and three ramps that provide fishing and boating access. White bass, walleye, bluegill, catfish, and largemouth bass are found in the lake. 

4. Conestoga Lake

Conestoga Lake Nebraska
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Conestoga Lake 
  • Distance from Lincoln: 11 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

Just 11 miles southwest of downtown, Conestoga Lake occupies 230 acres in the 486-acre Conestoga Lake State Recreation Area

Originally created as an artificial reservoir after construction on the adjacent dam was finished in 1963, Conestoga Lake experienced significant sediment inflows over the years, and declining water quality affected the fish population.

The reservoir was entirely drained in 2016 with the fish population removed, along with over 500,000 million cubic yards of sediment. 

Improved facilities were added, including wheelchair-accessible fishing piers, a new kayak launch, and a new boat ramp. Along with these improvements, entirely new fish habitat was created to reinvigorate the lake with the restocking of new fish populations. 

Improvements to the lake have been well received by those who visit the park. Boats are permitted in the recently refreshed lake, although boating speeds must remain at or below five miles per hour to ensure a no-wake environment. 

Fish now found in the lake include crappie, channel catfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, and walleye. 

5. Yankee Hill Lake

  • Official Page: Yankee Hill Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 11 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

A short drive of 11 miles southwest of downtown takes Lincoln residents to Yankee Hill Lake, an artificial reservoir of approximately 200 acres with five miles of shoreline. 

Primary access to the lake in the area of Denton is available on its western shoreline, where a road takes visitors to a launch site with basic parking facilities along a dirt and gravel road. 

The lake is completely surrounded by the Yankee Hill State Wildlife Management Area. Visitors must possess a State Park Permit to enter this site, one with a dog training area and primitive camping, in addition to highly rated fishing experiences. 

Trees generally surround much of the lake, giving those who come to fish a feeling of tranquil escape. 

Only boats with electric motors are permitted on the lake. Anglers who bring their rods and reels can expect to catch walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. 

6. Bluestem Lake

Bluestem Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Bluestem Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 20 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Rowing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

A drive 20 miles south of the city offers guests access to Bluestem Lake, a 352-acre body of water that forms the focal point of the Bluestem Lake State Recreation Area

Similar to other state-managed recreation sites in the Lincoln area, this location has received high praise from visitors for the quality of recreation opportunities, which include swimming, picnicking, camping, hunting, boating, and fishing.

The overall size of the state recreation area is 742 acres, with most of the popular activities centered close to the shore of the lake. Seasonal game hunting at Bluestem Lake does include quail, pheasant, squirrel, turkey, deer, and some varieties of waterfowl. 

A swimming area offers lake access, along with three boat ramps and four docks. The most popular fish harvested from Bluestem Lake include crappies, walleye, channel catfish, and bluegill. 

7. Wagon Train Lake

Kayaking on a lake in Nebraska
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Wagon Train Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 19 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Rowing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

A drive of just under 19 miles southeast of downtown will bring anglers to Wagon Train Lake. The 746-acre Wagon Train State Recreation Area entirely surrounds this 315-acre body of water, a place known for picnicking, fishing, and boating, with a summertime swimming beach as well. 

Wagon Train Lake is at almost the same latitude as Bluestem Lake, with a straight-line drive of approximately 12.5 miles separating these popular recreation areas. 

If crowds or fishing conditions at one location seem less than expected, a journey to the other is possible in under a half hour. 

In August 2022, park staff eliminated gizzard shad, common carp, and white perch in an effort to give the lake a refresh. This effort was part of a larger project that also involved improvements to the dock and boat ramp.

A restocking in fall 2022 will include largemouth bass and bluegill. At some point in the future, black crappie, muskellunge, saugeye, and channel catfish will also be added. 

These efforts will diversify the aquatic population and bring new opportunities for anglers to catch popular fish in this pleasant and popular lake. 

8. Stagecoach Lake

National Guard Training in Stagecoach Lake
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Stagecoach Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 22 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

Stagecoach Lake offers a third nearby destination for those who enjoy fishing and wish to travel south of Lincoln. 

Located 20 miles south of the downtown, the lake is a little under seven miles southwest of Wagon Train Lake and a slightly more than 12-mile drive southeast of Bluestem Lake. The small city of Hickman is between Stagecoach Lake and Wagon Train Lake. 

This 195-acre lake is surrounded by a 607-acre Stagecoach State Recreation Area, another state-managed public lands access site that offers RV and tent camping and picnicking, along with boating, fishing, and seasonal hunting. 

All boats are welcome, though a slow boating speed of five miles per hour or less is enforced, similar to the situation at Wagon Train Lake. 

Visitors will find one dock and one boat ramp along the lake. Black bass, bluegill, crappie, wiper, walleye, and common carp are popular fish in Stagecoach Lake. 

9. Olive Creek Lake

RVs ny the lake in Nebraska
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Olive Creek Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 24 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

A drive of under seven miles dock-to-dock from Bluestem Lake offers yet another fishing destination – Olive Creek Lake. 

This 175-acre waterway sits within the 612-acre Olive Creek State Recreation Area, which is 24 miles southwest of downtown Lincoln. Similar to the other nearby state-managed recreation destinations, boating and fishing are top activities.

Outdoor experiences at Olive Creek allow guests to reconnect with nature. Primitive camping is available. Hunting during the assigned seasons includes upland game, deer, turkey, and waterfowl on approximately 437 acres of land. 

All boats are permitted, although they must operate at slower speeds of five miles per hour or less to keep the waters around them calm. 

Fishing is very good at Olive Creek Lake. Channel catfish, black crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass await anglers who plan a visit.

10. Twin Lakes

Lake Sunset Nebraska
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Twin Lakes
  • Distance from Lincoln: 15 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

Located 15 miles west of downtown Lincoln, the Twin Lakes are two artificially created bodies of water in the area of Pleasant Dale. 

The larger of the two lakes is the easternmost one. This lake has an access point midway along its eastern shore. 

Just eight miles west of Pawnee State Recreation Area and immediately north of Interstate 80, the Twin Lakes are convenient for anglers in the Lincoln area.

In addition to the 225 surface acres these reservoirs have, the Twin Lakes Wildlife Management Area consists of an additional 1,270 acres of land. 

Visitors should have a State Park Permit in hand when they visit this site. Primitive camping is permitted, though no facilities are available, so campers should plan to bring any necessary items with them. 

Those wishing to bring a boat to this very peaceful area should bring a vessel without an outboard motor. Electric engines are allowed. 

Common fish found in the Twin Lakes include largemouth bass, white crappie, and channel catfish. 

11. Wildwood Lake

Lake in Nebraska in Summer
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Wildwood Lake
  • Distance from Lincoln: 20 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

Located 20 miles northwest of downtown, Wildwood Lake is a public recreation flood control lake under the management of the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District. Situated within the Wildwood Lake State Wildlife Management Area, the 103-acre lake is part of this larger 491-acre site that also has campsites and other amenities.

Visitors will see more than 120 acres of native grass and virgin prairie within this peaceful preserve. Hunting and fishing are permitted at this fee-free site.

Anglers fishing in Wildwood Lake will enjoy the surroundings and peaceful atmosphere. Rules prohibit the use of live baitfish, and there are catch-and-release restrictions on some fish.