Infusing Adrenaline Into Nebraska Parks

Offering adventure and a sense of wonder to all Platte River Valley visitors.

Between Omaha and Lincoln lie four of the state’s most popular parks and recreation areas: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Platte River State Park, Schramm Park State Recreation Area and Louisville State Recreation Area.On any given year, the parks and recreation areas welcome two million visitors — some come from the farthest corners of our state, while others make the drive from neighboring states. These parks are well-loved and well-used. So why would the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission feel the need to embark on a multiphase, $40-million project?

“The visitor landscape is changing,” said Roger Kuhn, Assistant Director at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Younger generations are looking for more excitement and adventure out of the parks. Some visitors still use the parks in the traditional sense, but others want an enhanced experience and reasons to put down their electronic devices and go outside. This expansion is providing them with those reasons.”

Three areas of expansion were identified by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission: learning experiences to allow school-age and younger children to interact with nature, fun and excitement to attract thrill-seekers, and serenity zones for people to relax and unplug.

From its findings, the commission launched the Venture Parks project, a four-phase endeavor that incorporates a mix of hands-on activities, heart-pumping experiences, enhanced camping opportunities and relaxation areas. The goal is to appeal to every visitor and provide unforgettable experiences. Currently, phase one has been completed and phase two is underway. So far, more than 40 different improvements have been made, thanks, in part, to a $2.5-million grant from Peter Kiewit Foundation.

“The visitor landscape is changing. Younger generations are looking for more excitement and adventure out of the parks. Some visitors still use the parks in the traditional sense, but others want an enhanced experience and reasons to put down their electronic devices and go outside.”

Roger Kuhn
Assistant Director at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Some of the new features include:

  • Glamping cabins
  • Two-tiered spray park
  • Crawdad Creek, a series of shallow ponds stocked with minnows, crawdads, tadpoles and frogs so visitors can get muddy and explore
  • Go Ape Treetop Adventure, a high-ropes adventure that includes multiple zip lines and weaves through the tree canopy with breathtaking obstacles and views
  • Water-based floating playground that tests your climbing and balancing skills; and
  • Renovation and expansion of Schramm Education Center, which now boasts an expanded aquarium, new education areas, and new interactive activities including virtual mountain biking

The new features have been thoughtfully planned out so that no one attraction is duplicated. Each park has something unique to offer and all four parks work together as a unit. All of the parks are also now accessible through the river and are only 15 minutes apart from each other. This allows visitors to do something distinct every day during their stay, jumping from park to park for completely different experiences. And once the weather turns cold and snowy, which it inevitably does, visitors can head to the parks for outdoor winter activities like ice skating or sledding; or if they would prefer to escape the cold, they can make good use of the indoor play areas and rock climbing walls.

“We’ve seen a jump in attendance since introducing the new activities,” said Kuhn. “Out-of-towners can’t believe these parks exist, and in-staters are thrilled to have this outdoor adventure right in their backyards. More importantly, we’re getting people out, away from electronics and away from screens. We’re helping them build memories that last.”