Merritt Reservoir, Nebraska, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Merritt Reservoir.

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Merritt Reservoir visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - Midwest - Nebraska - Sandhills -

Deep in the heart of the Midwest, in the Sandhills region of Nebraska, lies the 2,906-acre Merritt Reservoir. This secluded lake is a paradise for those who love hunting, fishing, bird watching, and all manner of outdoor activities. Merritt Reservoir was formed by the 108-foot high Merritt Dam, an earth fill dam which the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built across the Snake River. The dam was completed in 1964, and is operated by the Ainsworth Irrigation District. Merritt Reservoir is used as an important source of irrigation for the surrounding area, and the levels of the lake drop during the summer when water is distributed to thirsty farmland.

The wild yet serene beauty of Merritt Reservoir entices outdoor lovers to explore and enjoy its splendor and abundance of nature. The lake’s watery depths provide the perfect habitat for fish of all kinds, and anglers can reel in a variety of species including bass, crappie, channel catfish, perch, muskie, and walleye. Merritt Reservoir is known for having good fishing, and boasts many state fishing records. When winter comes and the lake’s surface freezes over, anglers also enjoy ice fishing on the lake.

Although fishing is one of the favorite activities on Merritt Reservoir, there’s also much more to do. Water skiing, sailing, boating, swimming – there are plenty of ways to have fun on Merritt Reservoir. There are a variety of amenities at the lake to make each visitor’s stay enjoyable – with boat ramps, fish cleaning stations, picnic areas, and more. Several campgrounds are also in the area, with a variety of camp sites, mostly primitive. There are also some cabins at a nearby resort.

Merritt Reservoir is the perfect destination for hunters, birdwatchers, and all types of outdoor sports lovers. Not only does the lake itself hold many attractions, but there are also several nearby wildlife areas in which to enjoy the beauty and bounty of the natural world. The Samuel R. McKenzie National Forest is in the area, as are the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge and the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. All of these places provide a wildlife wonderland to anyone with an interest in the outdoors. Birdwatchers can observe many types of birds, including prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse. Outdoor photographers have the opportunity to shoot a variety of fascinating and spectacular shots, from the wild birds and animals that live in the refuges to the stunning scenery at places such as Snake River Falls. Hunters will find a myriad of hunting opportunities in the area, with deer, antelope, turkey, waterfowl, and other game.

One of the interesting events held near Merritt Reservoir each summer is the Nebraska Star Party. It’s a fascinating week-long event designed for learning about and observing the wonders of the night sky. Because the area around Merritt Reservoir is remote and far from city lights, it is considered a perfect place for stargazing.

An endless supply of outdoor fun abounds for those who stop at Merritt Reservoir. Although this lake is somewhat out of the way, it is definitely worth a visit.

Custom Merritt Reservoir house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Merritt Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Merritt Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleye

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Merritt Reservoir

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Merritt Reservoir photo gallery

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Merritt Reservoir statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Ainsworth Irrigation District

Surface Area: 2,906 acres

Shoreline Length: 44 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,946 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 2,956 feet

Average Depth: 25 feet

Maximum Depth: 111 feet

Water Volume: 74,486 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1964

Drainage Area: 600 sq. miles

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