Williams Gap Wildlife Management Area southeast of Gering has reopened to the public after being closed because of a wildfire.

Hunter Baillie, a district wildlife manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said visitors to the property should be cautious as special hazards may remain in the burn areas, including falling trees and hot spots.

The wildfire, named the Smokey Fire, burned about 4,349 acres on the Wildcat Hills escarpment, including about 400 acres of the 1,829-acre Williams Gap WMA.

This is the second time wildfire has struck Williams Gap in recent years. In 2020, the Hubbard’s Gap Fire burned about 4,000 acres in the region, including about 60% of the wildlife area. Most of that fire occurred on a different portion of the property than the one this year.

Another wildfire in late July and early August, the Carter Canyon Fire, burned across almost the entire 2,200 acres of Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area southwest of Gering, while a sizable portion of the 10,533-acre Carter Canyon Platte River Basin Environments property also was blackened. In total, that fire swept across 15,630 acres.

Embrace the view at these scenic state park trails

By Renae Blum, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Some of the best views in the state can be found along a trail at Nebraska’s state parks. Whether you’re exploring a shady pine forest or trekking to a scenic overlook, these trails are worth seeking out for the adventure – and beauty – they hold.

Indian Cave State Park

Hike Trail 8 at the thickly forested Indian Cave State Park to reach a ridgetop overlooking the Missouri River. Stop to take in the scenery at one of the benches along the way or plan an overnight stay at the Adirondack shelter. Trail 10 also offers ridgetop views of the river, but be prepared for a steep climb at the start.

Ponca State Park

For outstanding river views, choose the Tri-state Overlook Trail loop, which starts near the east shelter and is a relatively easy hike. From the overlook, hikers can view Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Eastern portions of the 2-mile Buffalo Run Trail also offers spectacular river vistas.

Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area

The 1.5-mile Turkey Run Trail will show you most of the park, including fascinating rock formations and pine woodlands. It’s a popular trail with visitors and is moderately difficult. Staff also recommend the Monument View Trail, which is half a mile long and offers a view of the North Platte River Valley.

Niobrara State Park

Check out the Bottom River Trail, which runs just under 3 miles and shows the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers. You may see some wildlife too, including deer, foxes and eagles. For a beautiful view of a cedar forest, hike the Deer Creek Trail, which runs for about 2 miles through the heart of the park.

Chadron State Park

Most popular for its scenic views is the Black Hills Overlook Trail; you can see for miles from the butte formations. The rocky path also shows where a 2012 wildfire came through. This trail is 1.5 miles one-way. To enjoy the sight of an undisturbed ponderosa pine forest, hike the Norwesca Trail, which is a relatively easy walk and is three-quarters of a mile one-way.

Fort Robinson State Park

You can’t go wrong with any of the trails set in the buttes. Take the Red Cloud Butte Trail to see the fort complex from overhead; it’s a popular route and is often used by equestrians. Another option is the Mexican Canyon Trail, which also leads up into the buttes and pine trees. If you’re lucky, you might see bighorn sheep.

Platte River State Park

Hike the quarter-mile Stone Creek Falls Trail to see a small waterfall that is popular with visitors. Continue another quarter of a mile and you’ll end up at some bluffs alongside the Platte River, about 80 feet above the water. The Stone Creek Falls Trail is well-groomed and maintained and is an easy walk.

For more information about these parks and to buy a park entry permit, visit Outdoornebraska.gov. If you’re planning to hike during a hunting season, we also recommend a few safety reminders at OutdoorNebraska.gov/huntseasonsafety.

Fort Robinson Haunted Halloween is Oct. 29

Fort Robinson State Park’s Haunted Halloween is returning for its second year, but will be in a slightly different location from the first. The event is set for Saturday, Oct. 29, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the park’s Parade Ground and Buffalo Soldiers Barracks.

Deb Kennedy, assistant park superintendent, said the event was moved from last year’s location, the Soldier Creek Campground, because construction of an electrical upgrade is underway there. She said the change in location is for only this year and that she looks forward to it returning to the campground in 2023.

Last year’s event was popular beyond expectations, and organizers expect another festive affair. Throughout the evening, the park will offer free wagon rides and visitors can dine on chili soup and a roll for $5.

Even though “Camp and Candy” is without the campground, the public is encouraged to serve trick-or-treaters from their campers, cars, pickup trucks, trailers or other vehicles. Spots with 30-amp electricity will be available at the Parade Ground. To reserve a site, contact the park’s headquarters at 308-665-2900.

Attendees who arrive in costume may sign up for a chance to win a two-night’s stay at one of the park’s cabins that sleep six people. At 5 p.m., judges will award the best families or groups in costumes. Prizes will be awarded for the most original, the funniest, and the entry with the best Halloween theme.

The event is open to the public but a Nebraska state park entry permit is required for vehicles. The permits may be purchased in advance at outdoornebraska.org or from the booth at the park’s headquarters while entering the event.

Bohl wins 2022 Smallbore Silhouette Invitational

Laney Bohl of Mitchell hit 35 of 40 targets to win the Nebraska Youth Smallbore Silhouette Invitational on Sept. 24 at Pressey Wildlife Management Area south of Broken Bow.

High Boy Austin Rahmig of Gering hit 34 targets, as did Braden Hiser of Seward, before winning a shoot-off. Lilian DeWitt of Minatare was High Girl with a 33.

Bohl, Rahmig, DeWitt and Danika Bohl – the 2021 overall champion and Laney’s older sister – shot a combined 134 of 160 for Western Nebraska Shooting Sports to win the overall high team score. Western Nebraska Shooting Sports has won four straight overall team titles.

The annual event, which was established in 1977, is open to all Hunter Education graduates who are at least 11 years old and have not graduated high school.

“As organizers, we appreciate the attention to detail and safe firearm handling,” Match Director Matthew Haumont said. “This is a testament to the education and skills learned through Nebraska Hunter Education courses administered by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and taught by volunteer instructors all throughout our great state.”

Haumont said there were several instances of sportsmanship, integrity and mentorship on display. “Those are attributes that should be celebrated,” he said.

The 64 competitors fired 40 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition with a rifle unsupported and offhand at steel silhouette targets that were 43, 66, 84 and 109 yards in distance.

The 47th annual Smallbore Invitational is scheduled for Sept. 30, 2023.

The results are:

Individual Awards

State Champion – Laney Bohl, Mitchell, 35 of 40

High Boy – 1. Austin Rahmig, Gering, 34; 2. Braden Hiser, Seward, 34; 3. Bereket Glendy, Broken Bow, 31

High Girl – 1. Lilian DeWitt, Minatare, 33; 2. Danika Bohl, Mitchell, 32; 3. Laura Borgelt, Wisner, 31

Class B – 1. Andrew Enns, Holmesville, 30; 2. Dylan Frye, Hyannis, 29; 3. Sara Thomsen, Pierce, 28

Senior Division – 1. Kyle Rote, Lisco, 28; 2. Nathen Kaup, West Point, 28; 3. Seth Jacobs, Gering, 27

Unclassified – 1. Jaxson Orozco, Scottsbluff, 28; 2. Konnar Jones, Pierce, 24; 3. Ethan Engelmeyer, West Point, 22

Heavy Scope – 1. Ryan Rempel, Beatrice, 27; 2. Isaac Enns, Holmesville, 26; 3. Michael Roschewski, Beatrice, 23

Junior Division – 1. Brandon Thomsen, Pierce, 27; Kaden Grams, Superior, 19; 3. Makenzie Carmin, Doniphan, 18

Light Scope – 1. Seth Oltmans, Beatrice, 23; 2. Evan Kinnison, Kearney, 20; 3. Tripp Meier, West Point, 19

Novice Light Scope – 1. Caleb Mohrmann, Genoa, 15

Best First-Time Shooter – Nathan Stokes, Lawrence, 19

Light Iron – 1. Emma Loxterkamp, Beatrice, 12; 2. Wyatt Anderson, Amherst, 11; 3. Khalon Newtson, North Platte, 10

Heavy Iron – 1. Taylor Kinnison, Kearney, 11

Team Awards

High Overall – Western Nebraska Shooting Sports No. 1 (Austin Rahmig, Danika Bohl, Laney Bohl, Lilian DeWitt), 134 of 160

4-H Teams – 1. Homestead 4-H No. 1 (Andrew Enns, Isaac Enns, Michael Rochewski, Seth Oltmans), 102; 2. Cuming County Sharpshooters No. 1 (Isaac Wooldrik, Laura Borgelt, Nathen Kaup, Tripp Meier), 98; 3. Western Nebraska Shooting Sports No. 2, (Justin Missel, Seth Jacobs, Jaxson Orozco, Austin Wiedman), 87

Open Teams – 1. East Side Misfits (Braden Hiser, Brandon Thomsen, Sara Thomsen, Konnar Jones), 113; 2. Open No. 1 (Bereket Glendy, Ryker Staab, Trey Berghorst, Thad Hall), 72: 3. Open No. 4 (Ben Loxterkamp, Kaden Grams, Theron Erickson, Dylan Frye), 66

School Teams – 1. Lawrence-Nelson (Nathan Stokes, Owen Smiley, Grayhm Beck), 25

Dick Turpin Outdoor Education Memorial Fund established

Legendary Nebraska outdoorsman Dick Turpin loved connecting people to the outdoors. Since his passing earlier this year, his family, along with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, have established a way to keep that spirit going.

The Dick Turpin Outdoor Education Memorial Fund has been created to support hunter education and outdoor education programs across Nebraska. Its goal is to inspire a love for the outdoors and time-honored traditions.

Contributions to the fund continue Turpin’s legacy by supporting a variety of activities. These include hunter education and mentored youth hunts, opportunities and equipment for low-income families, school programs and scholarships for Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops.

Turpin had a 40-year career with Nebraska Game and Parks. He started as a grounds crew worker, then became a conservation officer, hunter education coordinator and chief of law enforcement. His passion was inspiring a love of the outdoors in all he met, as well as spinning masterful stories. He retired in 1999.

“Dad loved nothing more than to be outdoors, whether hunting or fishing or simply walking through the woods and taking in the nature around him,” said Jana McGuire, Turpin’s daughter. “Through this fund, we honor his legacy by supporting activities, education and events that get more families outside to enjoy all that Nebraska’s outdoors have to offer, particularly those new to outdoor life.”    

To make a donation, visit Outdoornebraska.gov/turpinmemorialfund.

“Dick would be thrilled knowing the donations are providing opportunities for youth and adults of all ages and from all walks of life,” said Reenie, Turpin’s wife.