Hidden gem along Interstate 80

Pure Nebraska
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 11:10 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2022 at 11:11 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you are looking for a place to fish, camp, or just relax, then you might consider a visit to Windmill State Recreation area situated at the Gibbon Interchange between Kearney and Grand Island.

“Like some of the other parks on the interstate, they started because of the interstate being built,” said Grant Gartner, park superintendent. “The six ponds we have on site are left over from barrowing material to make the interstate. That was in the 1960′s when the Eisenhower Interstate came in. That’s how the ponds were here. From there, they decided to develop the rec area part of it. The camping followed. Initially, they were called the a state wayside area. The intent was that people traveling on the interstate would have somewhere to stay for the night. It used to be Windmill State Wayside Area. Today, it’s Windmill State Recreation Area.”

The park features modern camping with electrical hookups. There are modern restrooms with showers. There is a new archery range at the park. There is a 1 and a 1/2 mile hiking trail for people to use. The consistent draw is the good fishing on the six different lakes. It’s a good place for beginners to try fishing.

“The other thing that’s become big is the bird watching,” Gartner said. “From March 1 to April 15, we get a lot of people in here that we wouldn’t normally have, if it wasn’t for the crane viewing. We actually have a crane blind on the north end of the property that can be used by visitors if you have a park permit. It’s a first come-first serve blind.”

Windmill State Recreation area gets its name from a couple of unique windmills that are on the property. One is at the entrance, and it’s a railroad windmill. There’s a Dempster windmill donated by a ranch family that can be found in the middle of the park. They spin, but don’t pump water. There is a windmill on the east end of the property that you can see from I-80.

Consider the park as a good place to go for crane viewing next March. Superintendent Grant Gartner says the viewing is good in the area.

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