Dawson County offers more than 5,000 acres of water and 85 miles of shoreline for fishing and boating. Fourteen lakes are popular with people from throughout the region and across the state. There are also many miles of canals, which are all part of an original irrigation system that now serves the dual purpose of agricultural commerce and recreation. Today, Dawson County’s lakes offer a wide variety of sport and game fish including bass, catfish, walleye and crappie. Northern pike, perch and stripers are also in abundance.

Lake Helen in Gothenburg was almost lost due to silt deposits, but was saved by dredging in 1978. It is now a popular scenic recreation area with a 2.5-mile walking trail, picnic shelters and a playground. Fishing is also a favored sport at this lake. You can also relax at Ehmen Park or enjoy the beautiful floral landscaping at E.G. West Park in Gothenburg.

Residents also like to relax and enjoy golf on the 18-hole Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg. Opened in 1999, it is a links course bordered by thick native grasses. The fairways are wide, but lots of untouched sand hill sand traps help to increase your handicap. Golf Digest rated this public course third in the nation on its list of best affordable new courses in 1999. In 2004, Golf Week magazine ranked Wild Horse the 19th best modern course (any course built after 1960) in the nation and in 2007 it was the No. 1 U.S. course under $50, said Golf Magazine.

If golf is not your game, in Gothenburg you can play on two tennis courts, pitch horseshoes in regulation courts or take advantage of the outdoor heated pool, complete with water slide.

Midway Lake (southwest of Cozad on Highway 21) provides a place for water sports, fishing, boating, hunting and a panoramic view of the Platte River Valley. It is also the location of Camp Comeca, one of the Nebraska United Methodist Church camps, offering year-round opportunities. Gallagher Canyon State Recreation Area is also close by.

Within town limits, Cozad maintains 13 parks covering 33 acres. Park facilities include a 50-meter swimming pool, a walking track, tennis and volleyball courts, baseball diamonds, a Frisbee golf course and the state’s largest horseshoe pitching courts. Enjoy tennis and racquetball year-round at the Cozad Racquet Club.

Cozad Country Club added an additional nine holes for the golf enthusiast in 2001. The new back nine features undulations, 19 sand traps, three lakes, a creek and thick grass to make this course an unexpected challenge. It offers a practice range and green, cart paths, pro shop, kitchen and bar.

Outdoor recreation is king in Lexington, with five city parks that offer fields and equipment to support organized and impromptu volleyball, basketball, tennis and softball games. The Lexington Optimists Civic Club sponsors youth and adult soccer, a sport increasing in popularity with residents. The city’s new recreational complex includes five soccer fields as well as ice-skating facilities.

Overall, Dawson County offers hunting, fishing, swimming and boating opportunities. Nature lovers flock to the Platte River area in early spring to watch the sandhill crane migration; 200,000 bills descending on a 150-mile stretch of topography begs photographers to capture the magic. Likewise, residents and visitors keep an eye on the 250 bald eagles that feed below the Central Nebraska Public Power District J-2 Hydro-plant on the town’s southeast side each winter.