Home » 2013 Cross Country Road Trip

Lake McConaughy State Park, NE

Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 10:30am by Lolo
424 miles and 8 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Swimming in "Big Mac"Swimming in "Big Mac"Anyone that has read any of our previous trips will know that Lake McConaughy is another one of our favorite stepping stones on our treks across the U.S. We had first it in 2001 (thanks to the National Geographic Guide to the State Parks of the U.S.) and have been back 5 or 6 times since.

It's hardly off route when traveling west on Route 80, and it's really a very lovely stop.

The 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. Although we have done that in the past, there was no way we were going to attempt that with our caravan. Instead I had reserved in advance two campsites in the Little Thunder, a developed campground on asphalt along the lake’s northern shore. Also, it was extremely hot, so the ability to plug into an electrical outlet and run the a/c was a big plus.

It was already late afternoon when we arrived, so we quickly filled a cooler, grabbed our gear, and headed down to the beach, just a short walk from our campsite.

Frisbee "Beer Pong"Frisbee "Beer Pong"It wasn’t long before the boys roped me into playing a game. “It’s a simple game,” they explained. All that was needed were 2 tall sticks stuck into the ground about 10 yards apart, 2 red solo cups placed over the tops of each of the sticks, a Frisbee, and a cooler of beer. I soon learned that the cooler of beer was really the only piece of equipment that mattered. It was sort of beer pong without the ping pong table. Basically, there were two teams – me and Tommy vs. Andrew and Celeste, while Herb looked on skeptically about the wisdom of this game. The object was to throw the Frisbee and hit the other team’s red cup. If we did, they had to drink some beer; if we didn’t, we had to. I wasn’t sure which outcome I was looking for – it was pretty hot out. If the Frisbee didn’t hit the cup and the other team caught it, then the team that threw it had to drink – or something like that.

I was finally at that point in life where I was playing drinking games with my sons. I guess that was a good thing. At least they still wanted to play with me. It was fun, and a refreshing swim afterwards made it even more so.

Enjoying Andrew's Annie’s Mac, Cheese, and Tuna DinnerEnjoying Andrew's Annie’s Mac, Cheese, and Tuna DinnerSince I had reserved and paid for two campsites, we decided that Andrew and Celeste should leave the comforts of the motorhome and set up their tent on the adjacent site. This would at least mean that Tommy didn’t have to spend the night on the floor wedged between the refrigerator and the dinette.

Andrew was our chef that evening and did wonders with Annie’s Mac and Cheese and tuna, and Celeste did her magic with a salad.
As always, Lake McConaughy had been a fun stop, but this time leaving it felt different – sadder. Now that we would be leaving the motorhome stored on the West Coast, we wouldn’t be making those long treks across the U.S. anymore, and we wouldn’t be passing by good old Lake McConaughy. I always have a tough time with “last times.” It was like saying goodbye to a dear old friend.


Relaxing on the beach after "Frisbee Pong"Relaxing on the beach after "Frisbee Pong"Lake 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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