Ring in the new year by getting outdoors and participating in First Day Hikes at Nebraska’s state parks Jan. 1.

These annual guided hikes give you the chance to explore trails, snap photos, watch wildlife and participate in any planned activities. Or, choose any state park and create your own hiking adventure.

Activities include a snowball toss at Verdon Lake State Recreation Area, a potluck soup luncheon at Ash Hollow State Historical Park and a photo scavenger hunt at Johnson Lake SRA, among others. History buffs will enjoy the guided history hike at Rock Creek Station SHP. Bring your dog, but be sure to keep him or her on a leash.

Hikes are planned at:

  • Ash Hollow SHP
  • Calamus SRA
  • Chadron State Park
  • Eugene T. Mahoney SP
  • Fort Kearny SRA
  • Johnson Lake SRA
  • Lake Maloney SRA
  • Lake Ogallala SRA
  • Louisville SRA
  • Mormon Island SRA
  • Platte River SP
  • Ponca SP
  • Red Willow SRA
  • Rock Creek Station SHP
  • Schramm Education Center
  • Sherman SRA
  • Verdon Lake SRA
  • Wagon Train SRA
  • Wildcat Hills SRA
  • Windmill SRA

For more details, including start times for all First Day Hikes, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/FirstDayHikes.

Prepare for your winter hike by dressing in layers, wearing a hat, bringing a water bottle and checking the forecast. Start a new tradition by inviting some friends along to the parks.

A valid Nebraska state park permit is required for all vehicles entering park areas; 2023 permits are available at park offices or at OutdoorNebraska.gov.

Those participating in the hikes are encouraged to tag @NEGameandParks in their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts for a chance to be featured in the agency’s social streams.

Fire officials begin burning slash piles across the state

Starting immediately as weather allows over the winter months, officials across the state plan to burn slash piles.

Nebraska Game and Parks will burn slash piles containing trees and shrubs removed from grasslands and forests, along with other debris piles, on both wildlife management areas and state park areas. The goal is to reduce fuel loads while conditions are safer for burning.

In the Pine Ridge, Nebraska Game and Parks is partnering with the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands to reduce fuel loads in forested areas.

When burns are occurring, smoke likely will be visible from nearby communities and other nearby roads and properties.

The burn piles will be checked at least daily until they are completely extinguished.

Thinning and reducing hazardous fuel accumulation and build-up on the ground is an important tool in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Many of these slash piles are from mechanical thinning completed in grassland and forested areas throughout the state and some residue from previous fires.

For more information contact the Nebraska Game and Parks Wildlife Office at 402-471-5431, and for information on the Pine Ridge fires, contact the Pine Ridge Ranger District at 308-432-0300 or the Game and Parks Commission Pine Ridge Field Office at 308-665-2924.

Hunters should avoid heavy equipment at Pintail WMA

Hunters are advised to be cautious and avoid heavy equipment performing wetland enhancement work at Pintail Wildlife Management Area in Hamilton County.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission urges the public to stay at least 200 yards from all equipment on the area for their and the equipment operator’s safety. Operators will be using T Road, so hunters are advised to avoid using this road to park.

This project will improve wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities by recovering wetland hydrology and improving wetland conditions.

The project is a joint effort of Game and Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a cooperating landowner.

Heavy, drifting snow closes Clear Creek WMA to vehicle access

Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area in Garden and Keith counties is closed until further notice to all vehicle access due to high winds and heavy, drifting snow.

The closure includes the Special Hunting Area, where controlled waterfowl hunting takes place from blinds. There will be no drawings for goose pits and no staff present until conditions improve.