Home » 2003 Cross Country Road Trip

Lake McConaughy State Park, NE

Friday, July 11, 2003 - 8:00am by Lolo
421 miles and 7 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


This was not our first time to Lake McConaughy, nor I am sure will it be our last. We had first discovered Lake McConaughy on our 2001 trip and had found it to be a great first highlight on a cross country trip to the West. It's right along Route 80 near the northeast corner of Colorado, so it isn't even out of the way.

He ain't heavy, he's my big brotherHe ain't heavy, he's my big brotherThe lake, or more correctly reservoir, is really quite pretty--beautiful aquamarine water surrounded by miles of sandy shoreline that you can drive your RV on and camp for the night. It's a little busier with jet skis and powerboats than we would like, but there's still plenty of room for everyone to have a good time.

When we arrived, we were surprised to see how low the lake was compared to the last time we were there. Apparently, they were going on their fourth year of drought and Wyoming was being stingy with how much water it was letting out through its dams to flow into Nebraska.

The last time we were here we had primitive camped right on the beach and really loved it. However, with the lake down so low, making the beaches much wider, we were having such a hard time finding sand hard enough to make us feel comfortable about driving on that we decided to try one of the developed campgrounds on the asphalt.

Before committing to staying there, we decided we would try to see how difficult it was to get to the lake from our campsite. As we started walking through the tall grass from our RV, a pickup truck pulled over and said, "You're not from around here, are you?" What was that supposed to mean? Were we that obviously out-of-state tourists. The gentleman in the car then proceeded to tell us that in Nebraska you never walk through tall grass--it's full of rattlers. Oh, great! A campsite without lake access just wasn't gonna cut it, so we got back in the RV to search once again for a primitive site on the beach.

We finally did find a nice spot under some cottonwood trees right off the asphalt. Although it was about a 200 yard walk to the lake, at least we wouldn't be cheating death every time we wanted to swim. Since it was already late afternoon, we immediately headed to the water where we spent the next few hours enjoying the warm waters of the lake. It really is a great place.

That night we barbecued under the cottonwood trees and afterwards had a family game of Frisbee golf. The kids had recently learned this game from their uncle, who claims to have invented it, but I'm not so sure. You basically play it like mini golf, except you use a Frisbee to hit different objects that represent the holes. It's really quite fun and can pretty much be played anywhere.

As always, Lake McConaughy was a great stop and one that I'm sure we'll be back to on our next trip out west along I80. I just hope that the lake is still here. What a shame it would be to lose a place like this.


Lolo with her new floatLolo with her new floatLake McConaughy, nicknamed "Big Mac," is the largest reservoir in Nebraska. It is located just a few miles off Interstate 80 near the Colorado border. The reservoir, which is over 20 miles long and 4 miles wide when at full capacity, was formed on the Platte River by the Kingsley Dam. The lake has over 100 mile of white-sand beaches along its shore line.

To Nebraskans, the main attraction of Lake McConaughy is water activities--swimming, boating, windsurfing, skiing, and world-class fishing. Trophy size catfish, walleye, stripers, bass, and trout have been caught in "Big Mac."

The park has 200 tent and RV sites. However, most people choose to primitive camp right on the beach at the water's edge. Camping is on a first-come first-serve basis.

Lake McConaughy State Park location map in "high definition"

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