Local Recreation Areas Offer Fall Family Fun

Local Recreation Areas Offer Fall Family Fun

Friday, October 2, 2020

Did you know that the Upper Big Blue NRD manages five public recreation areas? These parks are free to use* and open to the public year-round. With fall’s mellow temperatures and beautiful foliage, there’s no better time to visit. Whether it’s an early morning meditation with a fishing rod, or a fun family picnic and boating, there’s something for everyone—no park permit required! Overnight camping will close soon for the season, but there's still time to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities before the colder weather closes in.

Pioneer Trails Recreation Area (Aurora)

Just a mile from highway 34 near Aurora sits a tranquil lake with lots to offer. Pioneer Trails Recreation Area features amenities such as picnic shelters, grills, restrooms, and camp sites for RVs and tents. The amphitheater overlooking the lake is a great place for a gathering or performance. Trails around the lake are perfect for biking and hiking, horseback riding, or dog walking. Fishing, boating and swimming are popular activities at this park. If you have the proper licenses, you can also hunt ducks, geese, deer, pheasant, quail, turkey, and furbearers here.



Smith Creek Recreation Area (Utica)

Close enough to the Utica exit on I-80 to make it an easy drive, but far enough away you won’t be bothered by traffic noise, you’ll find a picturesque 20-surface acre lake surrounded by trees and prairie grasses. A boat dock invites you to glide into the water in a kayak or canoe and enjoy paddling through the still waters. Smith Creek Recreation Area is frequently used for weekend camping and scouting adventures in the summer. In the fall, it’s the prefect place to hunt, fish, hike and relax. The peaceful setting is handicap accessible and offers restrooms, picnic shelter, and a playground.


Oxbow Trail Recreation Area (Ulysses)

Named for the nearby Oxbow Trail used by pioneers in the mid-1850s, this recreation area is fed by an underground spring and offers fishing, hiking, camping, and more in a tranquil setting. Located near the small village of Ulysses, Oxbow is the most secluded of the NRD’s five recreation areas. The 40-surface acre lake is a great place for bird watching, as well as boating, fishing, and hunting. The handicap accessible park offers amenities including picnic shelters, grills, and restrooms. This not-to-be-missed spot is the perfect place for outdoor adventures for families, like long walks, catching frogs, and identifying wildlife.


Bruce L. Anderson Recreation Area/ Recharge Lake (York)

Located less than a mile from highway 34 just outside of York, this easy to access recreation area offers the largest lake and one amenity not offered at any of the other NRD managed areas—an archery range. The 14-acre outdoor range features 25 covered bale targets, elevated platforms, and a variety of shooting situations. The lake was originally constructed for a five-year aquifer recharge study but is now used primarily for recreation. While many still know it simply as Recharge Lake, it was renamed in memory of Bruce Anderson, conservation advocate and longtime member of the Upper Big Blue NRD board of directors. Anderson Recreation Area has everything you need for family fun, including tent and RV camping, grills, picnic tables, and restrooms. Two dock areas offer ideal spots for fishing and wildlife viewing. Hiking trails surround much of the lake. A playground and amphitheater make it an ideal gathering spot for groups.

Kids walk a trail at Overland Trails Recreation AreaOverland Trail Recreation Area (York)

Located two miles east and one mile south of York, the Overland Trail Recreation Area is named for a nearby spur of the Oregon Trail used in the 1860s. The area is more primitive than other NRD managed recreation sites and does not have boat docks, picnic shelters, or restrooms. What it does have is trees and trails, rolling hills and peaceful prairie. It’s a lovely spot to observe wildlife. Spread a blanket and enjoy a picnic or a quiet afternoon with a good book. Bring a sleeping bag and sleep out under the stars. Come back in winter for a great place to go sledding, skating, or cross-country skiing.

*Pioneer Trails & Recharge Lake ONLY Fees: Tent camping is $5/night and RV camping is $15/night, with a 14-night maximum stay. All campsites are first come, first serve. No reservations are available. The end of the 2020 camping season at the five district managed recreation areas will be Sunday, October 25, at 4 p.m. Day use will continue year-round.