Nebraska’s Ocean

Until the final two days of our May trip, we were not aware that Nebraska, a landlocked state, has its own ocean. Confused? So were we. If we had been blindfolded and dropped in this location, we might indeed have deemed ourselves at the beach of a vast sea, stretching from horizon to horizon. With our toes digging into fine sand and touching the edge of an immense body of water, we were able to relate to “Nebraska’s Ocean,” one of Lake McConaughy’s playful monikers (another is Big Mac), even after we learned that it is “only” the state’s largest reservoir, twenty-two miles long and four miles across at its widest point. Created by impounding the North Platte River behind Kingsley Dam which was constructed between 1936 and 1941, the reservoir provides and controls the water supply for agricultural use, and generates energy via a hydroelectric power plant.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

The lake has become a major destination for vacationers as it offers boating, fishing, hunting, and camping. With numerous campgrounds, particularly along its northern shore, the main difficulty for us in choosing a campsite would have been an embarrassment of riches. Instead, by following the suggestion of the friendly receptionist at the visitor center, we enjoyed the smaller and less busy Lake Ogallala campground at the foot of Kingsley Dam. A stiff breeze was blowing all afternoon on the day of our arrival, and an impressive storm illuminated the surrounding night sky, but only touched us with brief lightning, claps of thunder, and a few heavy droplets. In the wake of this unsettled front followed two calm nights and days.

    Our daytime hours were filled with birding, reading, writing, and simply hanging out to enjoy the scenery. As we traveled during the week before Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of the summer season, we knew we would have to deal with increasing numbers of campers, but we were fortunate to have considerate neighbors, so that all we heard at night were the hoots of owls and the shrieks of grebes. As Nebraska’s feathered denizens differ from Colorado’s, I relished the opportunity to familiarize myself with more Midwestern species.

My most memorable avian encounter happened not at Lake Ogallala, but at “Big Mac.” As one of the few inland breeding sites of a rare species, portions of the beach are off limits to human use during the summer months, but the birds in question occasionally venture outside. On our second evening, we took a couple hours to explore stretches of the north shoreline, where several had been sighted. After two or three unsuccessful stops, I made one last effort and strolled down to the water’s edge. Wishful thinking sometimes makes us see things that are not there, which was the first thought that crossed my mind when I saw a diminutive bird chase away a Killdeer, nearly twice its size. My heart skipped a beat when, staring through my binoculars, I grasped that I was, indeed, looking at a Piping Plover, one of an estimated 8,400 individuals worldwide, all of which live in the Americas. Of the two existing populations, one breeds at the Atlantic seaboard in the Northeast; another prefers lakeshores and rivers of the Great Lakes and the Great Plains. In the Great Lakes region, they are considered threatened; in the other two endangered. Adding this little lifer was a big deal, and, according to my husband, my formerly tenuous mood improved immediately. I hate it when he is right!

To avoid the weekend crowd, we slowly packed up on Friday morning, then bid Nebraska goodbye, grateful for a week packed with many new impressions and much food for thought.

50 thoughts on “Nebraska’s Ocean

    • And I was unaware of Ashfall Fossil Beds. I am always sad if a lack of time prevents us from exploring a new area of the country, but, unfortunately, most of us have time limits. I will visit Ashfall vicariously via your blog. 😊
      Best wishes,
      Tanja

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  1. Wunderschöne Aufnahmen sind das, Tanja 😀
    Lesen kann ich den Beitrag nicht, weil meine Englisch Kenntnisse nicht ausreichen und ich nicht zu Hause am Computer bin.
    Da übersetzt dann Google für mich 😊
    Ich wünsche dir einen schönen Tag.
    Liebe Grüße, Brigitte

    Liked by 2 people

    • Danke, liebe Brigitte. Es tut mir leid, daß ich in letzter Zeit übersetzungsfaul bin, aber zeitlich ist es mir einfach nicht möglich, alle Posts ins Deutsche zu übersetzen. Nächste Woche kommt aber mal wieder einer.
      Danke, daß Du Dir die Zeit nimmst, Mr. Google um Hilfe zu bitten.
      Sei herzlich gegrüßt,
      Tanja

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  2. Da geht mir direkt das Herz auf! Und die „Piepmätze“ hast Du auch so wundervoll eingefangen. Deine Fotos sind für mich immer wie ein kleiner geistiger Kurz-Urlaub. Ich danke Dir herzlich liebe Tanja.

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  3. I know what you felt when you saw the cute little Piping Plover (even the name is cute 🙂 )! I had a real adrenalin kick when I had an encounter with the yellow-eyed-penguin in NZ, also an endangered species. I was soooo happy!!

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    • Hi Neil,
      I have read that their declining numbers are due to loss of beach habitat, harassment by people, dogs, vehicles that trample through their breeding areas, predation by other animals. I think the closure of stretches of beach where they are known to breed has had some success, but it warrants the support of the local community.
      I hope their numbers will increase, or at least stabilize!
      Thanks for your interest.
      Kind regards,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow those birdies are so beautiful, Tanja! I have no doubts that you had a great time there. Piping Plover – so lucky that you got to see it, I learned something about them through your blog post today. The lake over there indeed looks more like sea. I’ve been visiting a lot of Polish lakes this summer for my diving, and some of them are so big, with beaches and everything that it actually feels like sea 🙂 Hope you’re having a fantastic summer!

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    • Thank you, Pooja. We previously discussed my yearning for the ocean. For now, our inland lakes will have to do, but they are beautiful in their own right. Glad you get to enjoy Poland’s lakes this summer. I hope it is not too hot there!
      Best,
      Tanja

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  5. Wunderschöne Aufnahmen, liebe Tanja. Die Regen”streifen” über dem Wasser sehen toll aus. Gut eingefangen! Und die Vögel sind mal wieder allerliebst, besonders natürlich der letzte Pieper 🙂 Diese Waxwings erinnern mich an Seidenschwänze. Sind die verwandt? Und dieser gelbschwarze Oriole erinnert mich ein wenig an unseren heimischen Pirol, wenn auch nur der Farbgebung nach. Es ist immer wieder eine Freude, hier mal die amerikanische Vogelwelt kennenzulernen! Einen schönen Sonntag noch, liebe Grüße, Almuth

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    • Danke für Dein Interesse, liebe Almuth. Die Stimmung and den zwei Seen war einfach wunderbar. Und die Vogelverwandtschaften hast Du alle richtig erkannt. Ich habe jetzt das Problem, daß ich viele deutsche Vogelnamen nicht kenne, weil ich sie nie gelernt habe, bevor ich aus Europa wegzog. Dadurch gibt es immer etwas Neues zu lernen, was ja auch gut ist.
      Dir eine gute neue Woche.
      Herzliche Grüße,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ich finde es deshalb ganz hilfreich, die lateinischen Namen dazuzuschreiben, dann kann man länderübergreifend nachgucken, was es ist. Wenn man im Web so spezifische anderssprachige Namen sucht, ist man nicht immer erfolgreich. Aber wie auch immer, so gibts neue Sachen die man erforschen kann, da hast du Recht! Schön, daß ihr einen angenehmen Urlaub hattet 🙂 LG, Almuth

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  6. That sounds like a wonderful trip. It’s been awhile since I got away, and I’m beginning to hunger for other vistas. HOW COOL that you saw the little bird! Plover, was it? I’m so bad remembering things these days. I think I just saw an article about these little birds being found at Illinois Beach State Park this summer. It is difficult to persuade people not to invade their nesting sites along the dunes.

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    • Thank you, Melissa. I hope you will get away soon. I actually feel the same way. Even going camping for two or three nights helps break down the routine. I want to believe that most people, if given the facts about the endangered status of a species, would be willing to be slightly inconvenienced, but alas…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ja, er heißt Flötenregenpfeifer, und er hat sich da einen schönen Brutplatz in der Mitte des Landes ausgesucht. Du hast recht, manchmal stößt frau unerwarteterweise auf das Meer!
      Welcome back to “normal”, whatever that means! 😊
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s gorgeous! I’ve never been to Nebraska but I’ve always wanted to go, certain of its overlooked, quiet majesty. I had no idea there was such an inland ocean. Your picture titled “home away from home” is particularly resonant: the sunset, the tent, the water. I love the inland parts of continents more and more as I grow older.

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    • Thank you, Amber, for your comment, and for following my blog. I am happiest when I can spend my days and nights out of doors, and we were fortunate to find this beautiful corner of Nebraska. I love bodies of water and envy your residence near the ocean!
      Best wishes,
      Tanja

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    • Thank you so much, Diana. I love orioles, too. We typically only get Bullock’s Orioles here in Colorado Springs, but when they show up at the feeder, it is a welcome splash of color. You might get Bullock’s, Baltimore, and Orchard Orioles in your neck of the woods. I am envious!

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