Lake McConaughy

lake mcconaghy

Lake McConaughy is one of Nebraska’s most popular recreational attractions according to the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism. The lake and the surrounding land are used for a wide variety of recreational pursuits, some unique in Nebraska. This variety of attractions helps explain why a lake located in a sparsely populated state and more than 200 miles from any major metropolitan area is so popular with visitors.

The north shore of Lake McConaughy is known for its fine, sandy beaches. Several bays and coves — some with modern camping facilities — offer excellent recreational opportunities for boating, picnicking, jet skiing, swimming, wind surfing and water skiing. While the south side of the lake is generally not as accessible or developed as the north side, excellent recreational opportunities present themselves on the lake’s southern shores as well.

Almost all Central property surrounding Lake McConaughy is leased to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) at no cost to be used for recreational or wildlife purposes. An NGPC park entry permit is required for vehicles entering the State Recreation Area. A small amount of land is retained by Central for operations, District houses, etc. Some of this land is subleased by NGPC to a number of private concessionaires who operate recreation-related businesses around the lake.

Central annually leases the land within the Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area (6,244 acres at the west end of the lake) to NGPC. The WMA is visited by thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds and sandhill cranes and is home to a variety of game animals. Hunters seek white-tailed and mule deer, wild turkey, ducks, geese, pheasant, quail, grouse, rabbits and squirrels within the WMA’s boundaries.

Lake McConaughy has gained a reputation as an excellent spot for nature lovers and bird watchers. More than 300 different species of birds have been spotted on and around the lake. The birds are attracted by a diverse habitats that appeal to many varied species.

The entire shoreline at Lake McConaughy is open to the public for camping and other recreational activities, except for areas that may be fenced off during the nesting season for least terns and piping plovers. Private housing developments and a golf course (Bayside) have been constructed on the south side of the lake and four areas contain housing and/or summer cabin developments. Modern campgrounds are located at Little Thunder Bay, Lone Eagle Bay, and Cedar Vue.

There are more than a dozen boat ramps at Lake McConaughy, most of which can be accessed without a fee. Three ramps have been extended to serve as low-water ramps as a result of recent low lake elevations caused by drought. The low-water ramps include Martin Bay swimming beach on the northeast side of the lake, Divers Bay on the southeast side.