One lake was closed to the public for more than a year. The other has been decades in the making.
Saturday is a milestone day for outdoor enthusiasts, with Zorinsky Lake in west Omaha reopening to the public and Lake Wanahoo, north of Wahoo, Neb., offering a new water playground to visitors.
Zorinsky is rebounding after an effort to rid the lake of zebra mussels, an invasive species native to eastern Europe and western Asia. The mussels can take over a lake within a few years, disrupting life in and around it.
The area around the lake has remained open, but park users say they are glad to be rid of the stink and the mud that resulted from lowering the lake.
Wanahoo, meanwhile, is receiving major buzz. Nearly 70 percent of all Nebraskans live within 65 miles of the lake. It's expected to be the premier angling destination in eastern Nebraska and provide a major economic boost for Saunders County.
"Hands down, this lake is what everyone has been talking about," said Jim Swenson of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The 1023-acre site features playing fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, open space, trails and the native tallgrass Bauermeister Prairie. The lake surface is 255 acres and has a universally accessible fishing dock. No-wake boating is allowed
Reopening festivities from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at boat ramp on the east side of the lake at the F Street entrance, off 156th Street. There will be educational booths, activities and information on zebra mussels and the lake's renovation.
Lake Wanahoo is a 662-acre reservoir on the north edge of Wahoo — and roughly 30 minutes from both Omaha and Lincoln.
The reservoir is the largest new body of water created in eastern Nebraska in years. Its surface covers more than one square mile.
The 1,777-acre site features picnic shelters, mowed walking trails through prairie grass, a four-mile walking and biking trail of limestone, camping pads for tents and recreational vehicles, and a boat ramp built to handle three vessels simultaneously.
But this is a reservoir built for fish. And fishing.
Click on the tab below to learn more about Wanahoo.
All about Lake Wanahoo
• Where: Wahoo, Neb., northwest of U.S. Highway 77 and Nebraska Highway 109 intersection
• Area: 1,777 acres
• Lake surface: 662 acres
• Maximum water depth: 34 feet
• Total dam embankment length: 4,100 feet
• Owner: Lower Platte North Natural Resources District
• Co-developer: Army Corps of Engineers
• Manager: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
THE BIG DAY
• Gates open: 8 a.m. April 28
• Tip 1: Pack patience with the sunscreen and picnic lunch. Huge crowd expected.
• Tip 2: Purchase state park entry permit ($5/day; $26/annual) and fishing permit ($7.50/day; $22.50/three-day; $28.50/annual) in advance at a vendor or online at OutdoorNebraska.org to keep the line moving at entry kiosks.
PARTING THE WATERS
A 3,200-foot breakwater levee one mile north of dam bisects the lake into north and south halves. Boats pass under a footbridge to access north and south pools.
• South half: Managed as a state recreation area. State park permit required.
• East side: Day-use area with picnic facilities. Two large and two small picnic shelters.
• West side: 74 camper pads (50 hard-surfaced) with electrical hookups; 60 tent sites with fire rings and picnic tables.
• North half: Managed in cooperative agreement between the NRD and Pheasants Forever, and serves as a site for mentored youth hunting in Game and Parks' PATH (Pass Along the Heritage) program. This area may eventually be designated as a state wildlife management area.
No-wake boating only.
No powerboating, waterskiing or personal watercraft.
Triple boat ramp with float docks on west side.
Boat lanes cut through trees dissecting the lake permit easy east-west boating.
Sailboat clubs and sailboarders expect to catch nice breezes on the water.
Stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, blue catfish, crappie, northern pike and walleye.
• Estimated populations: Bass, 64,000-plus; blue catfish, 18,000; bluegill, 640,000; crappie, 64,000; northern pike, 64,000; walleye, 64,000.
No minnows allowed as bait. Why? Minnows aren't always what they seem to be. They could be carp, white perch and other undesirable fish that biologists — and anglers — don't want in the lake.
Legal bait includes nightcrawlers, crawfish, leeches and artificial lures.
Catch-and-release regulation applies to all northern pike. Some pike are tagged near the dorsal fin. If you hook a tagged pike, note the number, release the fish and provide the information to Game and Parks.
Largemouth bass must be at least 21 inches long to keep.
All other statewide fishing regulations apply.
Seven fishing jetties. One on each side has attached handicapped pier.
Four miles of trails rim the reservoir.
Breakwater jetty doubles as a pedestrian bridge, providing a hiking-biking trail link to east and west side recreation areas.
Mowed trails north of breakwater jetty provide access to undeveloped wildlife habitat areas.
Crushed limestone-surfaced trails throughout day-use area.
ON THE WING Reservoir trails are a birdwatcher's paradise. Waterfowl — pelicans, ducks, geese and shorebirds — have flocked to the lake. A pair of bald eagles is nesting in the tallest tree south of the breakwater levee trail. The pair fledged two eaglets last year.
WHAT IT'S NOT
A state park with all of the amenities, comforts and activities usually associated with crowd-drawing Mahoney, Platte River, Ponca, Fort Robinson and other similar sites.
WHO'S IN CHARGE
Nebraska Game and Parks will manage the area as a satellite of Two Rivers State Recreation Area near Waterloo, supervised by Mike Carrick.
• Seasonal staff: Five.
• On-site maintenance: Game and Parks, April through September; NRD, October through March.
• Money matters: Game and Parks will keep park permit, camping and shower revenues up to a projected level and share 5 percent with NRD when incomes exceed total operating expenses.
WHERE TO PARK
• West: 57 stalls near fishing pier; 90 trailer stalls and 42 car stalls at boat ramp.
• East: 226 stalls divided between picnic shelter area and overflow site.
Do not park on the grass. It's fragile and developing.
The area south of the breakwater levee bridge was the site of the old Saunders County poor farm. The thumb of land protruding from the east shoreline holds 13 unmarked, poor farm graves. The cemetery site is fenced.
Shower house at camping area expected to be completed after opening.
Shade trees. Give them about a decade or two.
• Wish list: Fish-cleaning house, playground equipment, more boat docks, recreational vehicle dump station.
A rerouted, four-lane U.S. 77 will eventually cross the dam.
Reservoir named for Wanahoo Park, a popular dance hall and recreation area operated near Wahoo until the early 1960s. Wanahoo Park was along Sand Creek about one mile south of Lake Wanahoo dam.
WHY THE LAKE
The reservoir was created as part of the Sand Creek Environmental Restoration Project to provide flood control and recreation benefits to the Sand Creek watershed in Saunders County. Other benefits: new wildlife habitat, restored native grassland and hardwood forests.
Seven smaller dams upstream on Sand and Duck creeks and a large wetlands at the north end of the reservoir will help preserve water quality and extend the life of the lake by trapping sediment and farmland nutrients.
Drainage area: 87 square miles.
WHAT IT COST
• Estimated total: $33 million.
• Major funding: $12.5 million, Nebraska Resource Development Fund; $10.5 million, Army Corps of Engineers; $3.5 million, Nebraska Roads Department; $1.4 million, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission; $1.28 million, Nebraska Environmental Trust.
• Others: Sport Fish Restoration Program, City of Wahoo, Saunders County, Lower Platte North NRD.
• Grand opening activities: June 16.