Lake & Water Sports


Water skiing, Wakeboarding, Wind surfing – you’ll find it all at Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area


With more than 5,000 acres of water surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches, Calamus is the second longest lake in Nebraska. Pronounced Cal-Uh-muss, the name refers to a native plant: it’s an Indian word meaning food of the muskrat.” The lake is part of a 5,123-acre recreational area in the Nebraska Sandhills, perfect to enjoy your favorite water sport.

The lake is fed by the Calamus River, which is fed by water from the massive Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies the Sandhills region. That means that even though the lake is used to irrigate area farms, there’s still plenty of water in both the river and the lake even in the driest months.

Five boat ramps are open from spring to fall. Speeds in excess of five miles per hour are prohibited in the fishing areas of the lake. Campers enjoy two modern and two primitive campgrounds, a total of 122 pads with electrical hookups, and 55 primitive sites. Modern restrooms and showers are available at one of the campgrounds. The office, shower building and dump station are open from the last Friday in April through September 15th.

During the months of July, August and September, the naturally sand-bottomed lake is surrounded by more than 26 miles of white sand beaches that rival oceanfront properties. The lake also has a designated swimming area and opportunities for hiking and picnicking. Birdwatchers enjoy eagles, ospreys and waterfowl in season: cormorants are also common. Hunting is allowed in season.

Calamus Reservoir, formed by the Virginia Smith Dam, is six miles northwest of Burwell on Highway 96. A state park entry permit is required to enter any state owned or operated property. For more information on the Calamus call 308.346.5666.

Interested in camping at the Calamus or nearby? Check out all the options.

Canoeing & Tubing

Canoeing and tubing is a fun and relaxing way to spend any afternoon in the Burwell area. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery as you relax on the waters of the North Loup and/or Calamus River. Take your own trip down one of Burwell’s rivers or contact anyone of our local outfitters for a guided tour. For more information on canoeing or tubing the North Loup and/or Calamus River contact 308.346.5210.