Lake Minatare State Recreation Area and Lighthouse – Minatare, Nebraska

AOL - Lake Minatare SRA Lighthouse


In the summer of 2015, we were driving around and visiting Chimney Rock, Courthouse and Jail Rocks in the North Platt River region, we happened upon a sign that directed us to the Lake Minatare Lighthouse. Of course, both of us being former mariners, we had to check why a lighthouse was needed in Nebraska. So, we took a drive down to Nebraska’s Lake Minatare State Recreation Area (SRA) to find it.

Why we had to go see it…

Funny, a couple days prior, we found a pamphlet advertising that same lighthouse but never gave any thought to it. We thought it was some silly tourist trap but there was a better story to it.  Who would have known, in a land-locked state, a lighthouse would light the way. And, for whom?  And where was it guiding mariners to?

AOL - Lake Minatare Lighthouse

Being Coasties, lighthouses used to be part of expertise and areas of operation (AOR). So, the mariners in us just had to go search for this mysterious beacon.  Afterall, our Coast Guard began with an impressive history of lighthouse management also known as the U.S. Lighthouse Service.  For almost two centuries, Coast Guard members and their families were Lightkeepers. So, you can imagine our reason to go explore the Lake Minatare Lighthouse.

We climbed to the top…

Once we arrived, we spotted it in a small park-like setting. It stood there looking so lonely.

We entered through the old wooden arched door to the spiral steps that led us to what used to be the lantern room. We were able to get a better look at the beacon’s purpose.

AOL - Lake Minatare Lighthouse Door

The Lighthouse itself consists of a tower structure supporting the lantern room where the light operates. The lantern room is the glassed-in housing at the top of a lighthouse tower containing the lamp and lens. Its glass storm panes are supported by metal Astragal bars running vertically or diagonally.

AOL - Lake Minatare Lighthouse Stairs

Considering when it’s age, it was well built. However, this lighthouse was not subject to the harsh sea water or ocean salty air as the lighthouses on the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf coasts. So, you could say it’s aged well and will continue to stand the test of time.

AOL - Lake Minatare Lighthouse Door

AOL - Lake Minatare Lighthouse Top View 2

However, this lighthouse was really NOT a ‘light’ house…

We found out something a little disappointing. The Lake Minatare Lighthouse wasn’t really a lighthouse but an observation tower. It’s located on Lake Minatare State Recreation Area on the North Platt National Wildlife Refuge.
The 55′ high conical stone tower, named Lake Minatare Lighthouse was built and established in 1939. Although the light is nonoperational and has no purpose of guiding navigators, it poses as a monument built by the Veterans Conservation Corps. It is now maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

AOL - Lake Minatare Lighthouse Upwards View

So, as you probably can understand our ray of disappointment.

About the Lake Minatare State Recreation Area…

This SRA offers camping pads with electrical hookups and more than 100 non-pad sites. Facilities include showers, laundry, modern restrooms, dump station, water, picnic tables, shelters, boat ramps, unsupervised swimming, fishing and fish cleaning stations.

Lake Minatare recreation area claims choice camping and boating facilities. The modern campground has asphalt pads with electrical hookups, modern restrooms and showers. In addition, the area can more than another 100 units on undesignated primitive sites around the lake. Other facilities include: picnic tables, shelters, drinking water, fire grates, a trailer dump station and vault toilets. Minatare has an excellent sand beach, east of the dam. The beach is unsupervised, so swimmers should always use caution.

The surrounding area is closed to recreational use from October 1st to January 15th to minimize disturbance to migratory water fowl.
For more campground information, you can check out the Lake miniature SRA Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

How to get to Lake Minatare State Recreation Area and Lighthouse…

GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
41.93306, -103.49556
41°55’59″N, 103°29’44″WFrom Scottsbluff: The intersections of Hwy. 71 and Hwy. 26, go three miles north on 71 to Lake Minatare Road. Turn east on Lake Minatare Road and go eight miles to a T with Stonegate Road. Take a left (north) on Stonegate Road for one mile. Turn right into the Lake View entrance immediately after crossing the canal bridge. The office is half mile up the road on your right.

From Minatare and Hwy. 26: Turn north on Stonegate Road at the northeast corner of Minatare. Go nine miles on Stonegate Road to the Lake View entrance, turning right after crossing the canal bridge. The office is half mile up the road on your right.

So, though it’s not some famous or well-known landmark or super National Park, we still enjoyed visiting this little gem. It was a fun little drive to find it.
So there ya go! They fibbed. It’s not really a lighthouse but we fell for it.

If you’re interested in seeing some other cool stuff in this region…

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