KEARNEY — In the camping world, the Buffalo County Recreation Area is perhaps one of Nebraska’s best-kept secrets.
But the secret is getting out there, and with each new improvement, there’s more reason for campers to experience the peace and convenience of the campground — also known as Ravenna Lake — in northern Buffalo County. .
According to figures provided by Steve Gaasch, facilities manager for Buffalo County, attendance at Ravenna Lake has increased in recent years. Part of this growth is attributable to the COVID pandemic, which has spurred an increase in camping. Some of the growth can be attributed to ongoing investments in the park.
Preparing for the large influx of visitors for the 2017 total solar eclipse has brought significant changes to the campgrounds. In the fall of 2017, the first permanent campsites were staked and electricity was installed for 10 sites.
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A year later, in 2018, there were 200 overnight stays. A new well was installed, more electrical hookups were added, and a wind turbine aerated the lake water to improve fish habitat.
In 2020, a fountain was added to aerate the lake.
The late Buffalo County Commissioner, Bill McMullen, was responsible for these improvements. Gaasch said McMullen has a place in his heart for Ravenna Lake and spearheaded a number of improvements, including adding a substation for the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department and a campground office. .
Recently, the number of campsites increased by two and now stands at 41.
Gaasch reported at the Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this week that the Kearney Visitors Bureau had donated $35,000 for playground equipment.
Another feature that increases the number of amenities at Ravenna Lake is its new bathhouse, Gaasch said.
He thinks McMullen’s enthusiasm for Ravenna Lake was infectious. “I am an outdoor enthusiast. The fondness for this park really rubbed off on me,” Gaasch said.
He believes that visitors to the park produce a measurable economic benefit for Ravenna.
“This campsite and this lake has an impact of around $500,000 for Ravenna,” he said.
In 2020, Ravenna Lake recorded over 500 overnight stays, an increase from 400 overnight stays in 2019. In 2021, overnight stays totaled 1,000 and camping fees generated $19,534.
“If each of those 1,000 campers in 2021 goes to town and fills up with gas, and buys groceries and supplies, the city of Ravenna can easily see an additional revenue of $500,000 or more” , according to the statistics.
The Lake Ravenna recreation area is designed to accommodate campers who prefer rough terrain and also campers who seek comfort and accommodation.
Campsites range from primitive to premium, and rates per night reflect the level of amenities available at each site. Fees are $15 per night to $30 for top amenities.
Electric and water hookups, picnic tables, fire rings, pet-friendly rules, and pass-through or return access are available, depending on the site.
Park features include a boat launch (non-motorized or trolling motors only); dog park, fishing (permit required); horseshoes, pavilion and playground.
Campers planning a visit to Lake Ravenna can register online. The mailing address is: Buffalo County Recreation Area-Ravenna Lake, 5 Buffalo Lake Road, Ravenna, NE 68869.
Here is the range of accommodations and fees:
RV site with premium water and electricity: $30 average per night, eight sites available; suitable for vehicles up to 80 feet.
The “Lover’s Lane” campsites at Ravenna Lake are more spacious and located in a shaded, more secluded area of the campground. Sites n° 31 to 37 are direct access sites and n° 38 is a return site. Each site has its own water and electricity hookups, picnic table and fire pit.
RV site with water and electricity: “Cozy Corner”, average $25 per night, 16 spots available, suitable for vehicles up to 67 feet
RV site with water and electricity ADA: $25 average per night, two sites available, suitable for vehicles up to 130 feet long.
Electric RV site only: “Shady Bend” campsites; Average $20 per night, nine locations available. Fits vehicles up to 93 feet
Primitive site: $15 per night; no water or electric hookups, but each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Plus, the area is pet-friendly. Access is back only. Eight slots available. Suitable for vehicles up to 77 feet.
Ravenna Lake and its campground are open year-round, but as fall gives way to winter, fewer campers are at the facility, Gaasch said.
Planners are working on future improvements. They include the addition of a wildlife conservation well to raise low lake levels during drought years; additional holes on the disc golf course; more fountains; an additional sand volleyball court; and the vault toilet.
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