Harlan County Lake, Nebraska, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Harlan County Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Harlan County Lake

Harlan County Lake covers an impressive 13,250 acres in south-central Nebraska’s Frontier Trails region. Just seven miles from the Nebraska / Kansas state line, Harlan County Lake stretches seven miles long with 75 miles of shoreline. The entire lake is open to public access and is a recreational delight. Recreational activities include camping, fishing, hunting, boating, and water skiing,

Harlan County Lake was created by impounding the Republican River. Harlan County Dam was created out of necessity. In 1935 raging waters flooded the Republican River Valley and Republican City. It was estimated that between 100 and 120 lives were lost with an addition of over 10,000 cattle. The devastation prompted the US Army Corps of Engineers to construct the Harlan County Dam. Authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1942, and amended by the act of 1944, the dam was completed in 1952 but the lake did not reach full pool until 1957. With construction of the dam, the town of Republican City had to be moved to higher ground due to the fact that the whole area would be under water with the completion of the dam. Now during low lake levels, visitors of Harlan County Lake can walk through old Republican City; many of the old foundations of houses and businesses still remain.

Harlan County Lake is considered some of the best fishing in Nebraska. Fish species include walleye, white bass, catfish, largemouth bass, crappie and wiper. In addition to fishing, Harlan County Lake offers ample opportunities for hunting. Fur-harvesting goes back to the time of William Cody (Buffalo Bill) who trapped beaver and otter for fur in the Republican River Valley before Harlan County Lake was built. Buffalo Bill states in his autobiography that on a fur hunting expedition he and a companion collected 300 beaver and 100 otter skins. In the present day, fur-harvesters may find coyote, bobcat, beaver, muskrat, mink, raccoon, and opossum. Other animals that can be hunted are pheasant, quail, prairie chicken, whitetail and mule deer, turkey, waterfowl, rabbit and squirrel. All Federal-owned land is open to hunting with the exception of the developed parks and administration areas. All Federal and State hunting regulations apply when hunting at Harlan County Lake.

There are nine recreational parks located around Harlan County Lake. The Corps maintains six established campgrounds; primitive, tent, and RV camping is available. Methodist Cove and Hunter Cove Parks offer camp pads with electrical hook-ups. In addition to camping, Harlan County Lake has two full service marinas on the east end of the lake, Patterson Harbor and North Shore Marina. Boat ramps are available at Gremlin Cove, Hunter Cove, Methodist Cove, Patterson Harbor, Alma City Park and Cedar Point Park. Alma City Park boat ramps are for high lake levels only, while Cedar Point Park is for low lake levels.

Visitors who love nature will enjoy Harlan County Lake’s trails. There are trails for hiking, horseback riding, and all-terrain vehicles. The 500-acre ATV trail is located on the south side of Harlan County Dam near Republican City. Another delight for nature lovers can only be enjoyed during the winter months. Hundreds of Bald Eagles stop over the lake on their annual migration, and it is a site to behold.

Harlan County Lake will indeed be a repeat vacation spot for anyone visiting for the first time. With so much to do and see it is no wonder that Harlan County Lake is one of Nebraska’s hot spots. Whether visitors want a relaxing swim or an exciting hunt, they will not be disappointed with Harlan County Lake.

Things to Do at Harlan County Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • City Park

Fish Species Found at Harlan County Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Find Places to Stay at Harlan County Lake

If you’re considering a Harlan County Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Harlan County Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Harlan County Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Harlan County Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 13,250 acres

Shoreline Length: 75 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,946 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,974 feet

Water Volume: 327,600 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1957

Drainage Area: 7,164 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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