The Maple Creek Recreation Area, just northwest of Leigh, NE, is the place to be this summer! The area opened to the public on May 21, 2011.
The project is owned and operated by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD). The dam was constructed by Pruss Excavation of Dodge and is approximately 50 feet tall and located immediately west of Leigh – impounding the West Fork of Maple Creek, north of the Colfax County fairgrounds. The project provides flood protection for the fairgrounds below the dam, including property owners on the south side of Leigh, and downstream bridges and landowners along the West Fork of Maple Creek.
The multi-purpose project provides flood control as well as recreation. The area provides fishing, swimming, picnicking, hunting, natural areas, and trails. The 160-acre reservoir is split by Highway 91 with the main pool lying between the highway and the Colfax County fairgrounds. Highway 91 was raised approximately 12 feet above the lake which created a sediment retention/wetland area to provide good water quality and to extend the life of the lake.
Other recreation components of the project include: a 50-pad RV campground, tent camping, playground, shower house, swimming beach, no-wake boating, and a hiking/biking trail with a bridge that extends across the lake. Recreation Area Superintendent, Leonard Boryca, said, “The hiking/biking trail also offers a box culvert which allows walkers/bikers to cross under Highway 91, providing safe access to both parts of the 557-acre recreation area.”
Fishing is also popular at the lake. Boryca continued, “The lake is stocked by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission with largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie. Stream improvements were also part of the project, providing fish habitat in the stream above the reservoir and other in-lake fish habitat improvements as well as upland and wetland wildlife habitat.”
Boryca added, “Habitat tree plantings were started before the area opened, and new plantings are added each year to increase shade. It’s a new area, but it’s blossoming into a beautiful place for people who love the outdoors.”
The Maple Creek Recreation Area was part of the original Maple Creek Watershed project. In 2000, the Village Board of Leigh requested that the LENRD reconsider this structure. Feasibility studies by Olsson Associates were favorable and funding was obtained from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources through the Nebraska Resources Development Fund, from the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission through the Motorboat Access Fund, from the Nebraska Department of Roads for Highway 91, and from the LENRD.