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Serving: NE

Mill Race Park offers outdoor activities

Down the Road: Hike, watch wildlife and fish at the 50-acre park about a mile from Atkinson, Neb.

Many Nebraska communities have interesting and expansive park systems, but Atkinson’s Mill Race Park and campground, located only a mile from downtown along the Elkhorn River just off Highway 20, is truly unique.

The park itself is only about 50 acres, but it includes the old mill race “falls,” backing up a 14-acre fishing lake adjacent to the Atkinson-Stuart Country Club golf course.

There is plenty of room for picnics and daytime use, but there are also campsites available for overnight stays. A highlight of the park, besides the mill race and the lake, is the Ken Butterfield Memorial Bluebird Trail, looping about a half-mile through the park.

The trail includes benches, interpretive signs outlining various habitats and ecosystems represented within the park, and lots of bluebird houses.

Walkers are bound to notice turkey, deer and plenty of birds, including bluebirds, while they stroll the wide, concrete, all-weather trail. There are low-habitat areas of rainwater basin collection, more high-land habitats of pine and hardwood trees, and open areas of native prairie and wildflowers.

The original lake impoundment was built in 1894 by the Atkinson Milling and Irrigation Co., and was operated for milling purposes and hydroelectric power generation until 1929 when high water washed out the dam. After being rebuilt, the dam washed out again in the 1960s and in 1984.

In 1991, a joint effort between several agencies — including the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Nebraska Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — rebuilt the Atkinson Dam and deepened the lake, expanding its surface to 14 acres.

There are larger parks, but the quiet and serene Mill Race Park is a great place to view wildlife, enjoy a quick hike or picnic, or just hang out and wet a line in the fishing lake.

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TAGS: Conservation
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