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Sherman Reservoir adds great recreation value to the Sandhills region of Nebraska in addition to precious irrigation water for thousands of farm acres. Built in 1961 by the Bureau of Reclamation, the dam across Oak Creek was intended to provide flood control and irrigation storage. Since that time, 2,800-acre Sherman Lake has become the water playground for thousands of visitors each year. The Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Area and Wildlife Management Area were created to provide over 4,700 acres of public lands for visitors to enjoy with boat ramps, campgrounds, a marina, rental cabins and multiple trails. The reservoir is now owned and operated by the local Farwell Irrigation District and the Loup Basin Reclamation District.
A great deal of careful planning and development have gone into the area around Sherman Reservoir to provide for the activities visitors enjoy most. Four boat launch areas are open to the public, while larger boats can launch from the concession-operated marina on the eastern shoreline. The reservoir, stretched for miles along two main arms, has ample space for sailing, water skiing, tubing and pleasure boating. Many small coves and inlets make canoeing and kayaking popular for reaching remote areas for fishing. Care must be exercised during periods of high water as rock breakwaters often become partially submerged. Nearly a dozen trail roads reach the shoreline from all directions, leading to 360 primitive camping sites and several picnic areas. These areas provide drinking water and rest rooms but otherwise are quite secluded. Many hiking trails fan out through the area. Organized camping sites are located near the dam, where coin-operated showers and dump station are available. RV pads and rental cabins furnished with heat, air conditioning, bathrooms and kitchen facilities can be rented at the marina where office facilities are located.
Fishing is always a favorite at Sherman Reservoir. The lake holds channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, walleye, white bass and northern pike with walleye tournaments often held on the lake. Fish cleaning stations are located in the most used areas. One of the most popular areas is Fisherman's Bridge located at the inlet at the north end of the reservoir where anglers can also access the supply canal. Special fishing regulations are sometimes in effect for Sherman Reservoir, and a fishing license is always required; all information and licenses can be obtained at the marina. Some of the flathead catfish grow to trophy size. In winter, ice fishing is possible, with crappie and white bass usually caught. Walleye and northern pike fingerlings are regularly stocked in Sherman Reservoir. Because the reservoir is used for irrigation purposes, the water level can be somewhat erratic with major drawdowns occurring. Boaters should always check water levels online before heading to the lake. Some boat ramps may not be usable during periods of extremely low water.
The marina serves nearly all daily needs at Sherman Reservoir, offering groceries, soft drinks, beer, deli sandwiches, a laundromat, tackle, 'beer garden', fishing boat rentals, boat slips and boat storage, fishing/hunting/park permits, and the full-service campground with electric and water hook-ups. Fast food can be ordered from the grill. Over 70 RV spaces are available to rent by the season, and a small trailer court rents single-wide mobile homes by the season and year-round. Waterfront cabin rentals are also arranged here. The only area with private lodgings is at the north end of the reservoir where a small number of private cottages are built on leased land on a point jutting out into the lake. These cottages are in high demand and only occasionally can one be found for rent or sale. A few scattered leased lots are available within the Wildlife Management Area for seasonal cabins. Many Grand Island residents vacation at Sherman Reservoir each summer, just 50 miles away.
The public lands are divided into parks properties and wildlife management areas. The Wildlife Management Area is open for hunting during the appropriate seasons. Deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, rabbit, squirrel and dove can be hunted here with the correct license. Seasonal waterfowl blinds may be used for waterfowl hunting. The entire area is open most of the year for hiking, bird watching and nature observation with some areas open for hunting dog training. The marina can provide maps and appropriate licenses or permits. The nearest town is Loup City, about four miles to the southwest. Even the most dedicated campers and boaters occasionally want a day away from the lake, or perhaps a night on the town. Loup City is small but offers all necessary services, such as a full-service grocery store, auto repair, medical care, antique shops, artisans' galleries, a nine-hole golf course, bowling alley, community pool and several parks. Lodgings are available near Loup City, including a historic hotel and bed-and-breakfasts.
The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway passes through the Loup City area, offering unusual scenic vistas of Nebraska's famed Sandhills with its varied wildlife and abundant migrating birds in spring and fall. The byway passes many historic markers detailing the settlement of the area, with small town museums offering insights into the lives of the pioneers who settled here or passed through on their way farther west. Fifty miles to the southeast, the City of Grand Island offers big city entertainment, theaters, horse racing, a water park and shopping. Sherman Reservoir is just far enough 'off the beaten track' to enjoy a country lake vacation or a little fishing away from city life. Some real estate can be found near Loup City or outside of the public land areas of Sherman Reservoir. Existing properties on leased lots are usually scarce but can be found with a little effort over time. And that may be the only effort one needs to exert at Sherman Reservoir, other than launching the boat, grabbing the tow rope or wrestling that monster catfish into the boat.
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