Lake McConaughy Campground and Beach Information
Nearly everything about Lake McConaughy is big! Even its nickname, "Big Mac" reflects its giant stature. Its 35,700 surface acres make it Nebraska's largest reservoir with over 100 miles of shore line. At full storage, McConaughy is 20 miles long, four miles wide and 142 feet deep at the dam. The dam is among the largest of its type in the world, and the fish grow to trophy proportions, accounting for several state records.
Lake McConaughy is formed by Kingsley Dam, built by the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District to impound the waters of the North Platte River for a vast irrigation and power generation system. Construction began in 1936 and was completed five years later at a cost of $43,540,510.
Kingsley Dam was completed in 1941 by the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District to impound waters of the North Platte River for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation. But to most Nebraskans and to residents of neighboring states, Lake McConaughy is better known as a place for outdoor good times. Its waters and surrounding land provide the setting for many different kinds of outdoor recreation, thanks to efforts of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Located 8 miles northeast of Ogallala, NE, Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area is managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. To most Nebraskans and residents of neighboring states, McConaughy is known as a place for outdoor good times. Its waters and white sand beaches provide
the setting for many different kinds of outdoor recreation. Obviously such a fine piece of water offers excellent fishing and boating. But, Big Mac has become a favorite with campers, sailboaters, wind surfers, swimmers,
water skiers, picnickers, scuba divers, hunters, ice boaters, and many other outdoor funseekers.
Fishing has long been the primary drawing card at Big Mac, with its cool, clear, deep waters. Game fish vary from sporty rainbow trout to the everyday catfish. Prized most highly by the local angler is the walleye, and Nebraska's current state record of 16 lbs. 2 oz. came from Big Mac. Also top ranked is the white bass fishing. In recent years, a close relative of the white bass has been stocked, and the striped bass offers a tackle-busting contest an angler will not soon forget. Although smaller in size, the smallmouth bass provides some dynamite action.
If wind curtails fishing, skiing, sailing and other water sports on the big lake, all is not lost. Situated just below Kingsley Dam, Lake Ogallala is an integral part of the Lake McConaughy recreation complex. Known as the "little lake", it was formed when fill material was removed to build the dam. Lake Ogallala boasts some excellent fishing for rainbow trout and yellow perch. The lake is 1 1/2 miles long and a quarter mile wide. It has about 5 miles of shore line and covers about 320 acres.
There are also side trips to attractions in the region. Ash Hollow State Historical Park lies near the upper end of the lake on U.S. 26. The neighboring Sandhills offers unique scenery for a drive, perhaps to Arthur, just a half-hour north, or to Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, north of Oshkosh, about 90 minutes away. Ogallala and other communities also offer
interesting things to see or do.
Come fall, when campers, anglers, water skiers and other warm-weather sports enthusiasts pretty much abandon the lake, Big Mac becomes waterfowl hunting territory. Clear Creek Waterfowl Management Area at the west end of the lake attracts substantial numbers of Canada geese, which can be hunted on the controlled shooting area, as well as much of the rest of the lake. Winter is an invitation to ice boaters, skaters and backpackers, adding to the lake's year-round appeal.
Life Jacket Loaner Program for Kids
Since 1992, the Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area has incorporated a "Life Jacket Loaner Program." The Keystone-Lemoyne Dive Rescue Team organized the program that supplies life jackets to the Game & Parks Headquarters and to area businesses. The jackets are available for loan to visitors who may have forgotten to bring one for every child. The program's goal is to see to it that every child is boating and swimming safely.
Central Public Power and Irrigation, The Keystone/Lemoyne Fire Department, and the Nebraska Game & Parks supplied funding for jackets and signs to heighten public awareness. The late Leroy Orvis, Boating Law Administrator for the State of Nebraska, and current Administrator Herb Angell, have been directly responsible for the program's success.
An estimated 100 Personal Floatation Devices have been supplied to date. Current businesses participating include Samuelson's, Al & Dee's, Lakeview Fishing Camp, Otter Creek Lodge, and Admiral's Cove. Some of the concessionaires report such public approval for the program that private donors added jackets to the inventory. Few things in life could be as tragic as the death of a child, and efforts to proactively prevent accidents are clearly worthwhile. Anyone with questions, or a desire to participate in the program, should contact the Nebraska Game and Parks Headquarters at the lake.
Anyone wishing to donate PFDs (life jackets) should do so by bringing donations to the Game and Parks office, where jackets will be inspected by members of the Keystone-Lemoyne Dive rescue team and distributed to participating businesses.
Lake information is available at the Game and Parks Commission area headquarters here. The area also provides services from concessions to primitive camping. For further information and area maps, please contact the park headquarters office.