Email hidden gems to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail them to Hidden Gems, Omaha World-Herald Building, Suite 700, 1314 Douglas St., Omaha, NE 68102-1811.
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The very rural Royal, Neb., area is home to interesting, diverse places to visit.
Vicki Krecek of Omaha emailed to suggest Grove Lake — two miles north of Royal — as a hidden gem:
“There is a charming campground for a picnic or overnight and you're only a short way from one of Nebraska's most amazing spots, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park.”
Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area is hidden in the countryside of Antelope County.
Think shady spots for picnicking and camping, trails for hiking and wildlife viewing, and water for fishing largemouth bass, northern pike, crappie and channel catfish.
Brown trout reproduce naturally in East Verdigre Creek, which feeds the lake. A nearby hatchery adds 200 rainbow trout weekly.
Cindy Phaneuf of Omaha, who called the area “picture postcard perfect,” described her first visit to Grove Lake:
“We ventured around a little corner and it was just gorgeous, so pristine. It was a big surprise. I couldn't believe it was there.”
Mark Davis, The World-Herald's outdoors reporter, spoke of the Grove Lake wildlife:
“Both mule and whitetail deer can be seen, and turkeys are plentiful. Osprey, blue heron and gulls are common there and it is one of the few areas where mink are seen more than the rare flash of a fluffy tail.”
Grove Lake has no electrical hookups, but toilets and drinking water are available.
Grove Lake Trout Rearing Station, south along the creek, raises the rainbow trout. Visitors, welcome 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., can feed the trout (bring quarters for the dispenser).
Nearby Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, two miles west and six miles north of Royal, contains skeletons of extinct animals in the volcanic ash that killed them 12 million years ago.
Visitors get a close look at the Hubbard Rhino Barn. The Dickinson Fossil Heritage Center features exhibits and activities.
Ashfall is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Hours will change Sept. 3.
Admission is $5 for ages 3 and older. A Nebraska Park Entry Permit also is required and can be purchased on-site.