| VISIT NEBRASKA |
The rocky escarpments of Western Nebraska rise several hundred feet from the Southside of the North Platte River across three counties offering an unparalleled view of the Noth Platte River Valley. This land is protected by the state and has several vast areas open to the public to satisfy a variety of interests for both locals and visitors alike. Families, paleontology enthusiasts, hikers, hardcore campers, Audubon enthusiasts, Shutterbugs, hunters, and bikers are frequently thrilled at what the rugged lands of The Wildcast Hills have to offer.
Story by: Maria T. Morgan, BA, Anthropology
Photography: Hawk Buckman
| HIKING, CAMPING & SHUTTERBUG ADVENTURES
Maintaining affordable accessibility for this well cared for public/semi-public recreational land also requires the support of private land owners. It’s a balancing act that requires caution and careful planning to assure that local communities are enriched with healthy environments that enhance all of the lives of the people who reside there, which in turn enables these communities to create a welcoming place for travelers to experience as well. Wildcat Hills is a prime example of the successful implementation of this goal.
Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area provides an enchanting way to learn about the ecosystem in Western Nebraska and demonstrates how it has vastly changed through time. Their nature camps provide children with ways to interact with local wildlife and promote engagement with a fun curriculum.
The exotic wildlife that once lived here both shocks and amazes visitors and even surprises people familiar with paleontology. Hikers and bikers will love the intense beauty of the canyons cut deep into the north bluff as well as the diverse wildlife that thrives in mixed-grass prairie areas, mahogany shrublands, and pine woodlands.
While there are safer paths for families to follow that are wide and scenic, more adventurous adrenalin seekers will not be disappointed as they venture off tamer paths to explore narrow trails.
Evidence of rattlesnakes on rugged pathways will keep you alert along with the possibility of some favorite sightings such as bighorn sheep, deer, moose, mountain lions, and coyotes.
There’s a reason the trained staff at Wildcat Hills Recreation Area and Nature Center have advised visitors experiencing this fantastic adventure not to venture too far alone inside the 531-acre recreational area.
Primitive camping is also an option with 12 campsites perched atop the hills that provide an immersive view of the valley floor. Glam campers can enjoy themselves with the right gear and can sharpen their skills in bringing posh, comfortable surroundings to the wild outdoors, open skies, and scenic views of the Wildcat Hills.
Wildcat Hills’ beautiful habitat abundantly supports wildlife with many spectacular photo opportunities. Photographers and Audubon enthusiasts rarely leave disappointed with access to 27,000 acres open to the public to explore. Both Golden and Bald Eagles are frequently observed in WyoBraska along with Horned Larks, Pygmy Nuthatches, and Sandhill Cranes to name a few.
Wildcat Hills SRA e-bird site lists 133 varieties of sightings so far. Hunters have 230 acres at the Wildcat Hills Wildlife Management Area to roam and even novices can learn and fine-tune the skills necessary to humanely subdue prey at Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex. Archers are also encouraged to enjoy what this recreation area has to offer. There’s also access to equipment for a small fee.
| SUCCESS AT WILDCAT HILLS NATURE CENTER
State Recreation areas are vital and many people are dedicated to preserving them. The experiment of defunding the maintenance of our public lands to clear the way for more private investors has certainly challenged states charged with the task of preserving public lands in the United States, yet you would never notice visiting Wildcat Hills. Also, GPS technology has been helping to expand access to even more land by discovering public properties that have been unintentionally blocked by private property.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is a coalition of leading hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations that have been using this GPS technology to open them up to the public. Efforts with the Land and Water Conservation Fund are just two driving forces tackling this issue and plan to restore access to 16.43 million acres across the United States.
Nebraska is known for safeguarding access to conservation lands, but our neighbors to the west in Wyoming still have 1.11 million acres to unlock for public use.
The enclosure of the commons has been occurring since the 1800s as our Nebraska expanded and the settlement became necessary to give birth to this great nation. Fortunately, our founders had the foresight to keep aside enough public land so that every citizen would be empowered to enjoy this beautiful country in all its glory.
While states have been obliged to fill the gap with less government funding by creating partnerships with private interests, the task of protecting our heritage with access to public land such as The Wildcat Hills is still intact and growing. We envision these partnerships continuing to have success guaranteeing future generations’ access to Nebraska’s natural resources. The Wildcat Hills is a glowing example of Nebraskans working together to assure access to public lands for future generations.
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