Bow Creek Recreation Area

A panoramic view at the Bow Creek Recreation Area

NPS Photo


Bow Creek Recreation Area provides many opportunities for the public to experience a part of the Missouri National Recreational River. The 205-acre property includes a mix of wetlands, grasslands, riparian cottonwood forest, and mesic-bur oak forest. Rock and sediment exposures along the Missouri River reveal past geologic events. A mowed grass trail is planned for the property to loop through these environments. In the restored prairie, look for dragonflies and butterflies. In the cottonwood and oak forests, watch for wildlife sign including resident whitetail deer and turkey.

Yellow coneflowers in bloom in the prairies of Bow Creek Recreation Area.
The month of August is a good time to see gray-headed coneflowers in bloom.

NPS Photo

Prairie Restoration

The national park converted 30 acres of farmland into native prairie. Some of the restoration activities included cut and treated Russian olive trees, removal of native-invasive eastern red cedar trees from the floodplain and historic bluff land prairie.

Prairie grasslands once dominated the region. Grasses that could reach almost 10-feet high, such as Big Bluestem, can be found here. Songbirds like Nebraska's state bird the Western Meadowlark thrive in this environment while others such as the Dickcissel and Red-Winged Blackbird use the prairie grasses for nesting.

The acquisition of Bow Creek Recreation Area began in 2004 when the National Park Service purchased the property from willing sellers north of Bow Creek and completed the transaction in 2008 with the acquisition of the southern portion.

History of Bow Creek

The tributary of Bow Creek was named after the Maha Native American, Petit Arc. The name, given by French traders, means Little Bow. Petit Arc founded a nearby town after a disagreement with Chief Black Bird that split the tribe apart until Petit Arc's death.

Lewis and Clark also visited this area of the river, setting up camp directly across from the mouth of Bow Creek. Since the river meanders, the site is about a mile further north of where Bow Creek now resides, on the Nebraska side.

View of the Missouri from the shores of Bow Creek Rec Area.
Opportunities for napping under the shade of a cottonwood tree are available at Bow Creek Recreation Area.

NPS Photo

How To Get There

Bow Creek Recreation Area is located along Bow Creek and the Missouri River in Cedar County about 2 miles northeast of Wynot, Nebraska. A series of gravel roads wind you to the location by car. Follow the brown Bow Creek Recreational Area directional signs to the gravel parking lot and trailhead. Visit Google Maps for orientation to the recreation area.

While visiting Bow Creek...

  • Private land surrounds the public access and the entire NPS property. Please watch for property and boundary signs.
  • Trash receptacles are not available on the property. The NPS encourages that you "Leave No Trace" so others can enjoy the Bow Creek Recreation Area experience as well.
  • Camping is allowed and free. Camp only in designated sites marked with brown camping signs and metal fire rings. Visit the Camping Page for more rules and regulations.
  • Watch campfires. Dead and down wood may be collected.
  • Motorized vehicles and horses are prohibited on the property.
  • Do not damage or remove the cultural or natural features.

Hunting Regulations

Bow Creek Recreation Area is open to public hunting and fishing. The following regulations were developed to ensure equal access for all visitors, provide a safe environment for recreation, and protect resources for present and future generations to enjoy. Please following our regulations. Please visit the Hunting Page for additional information.

  • Federal and State Hunting and Fishing Regulations apply.

  • Do not leave personal property unattended for more than 24 hours. This includes waterfowl blinds on the National Park Service accretion property.

  • Non-toxic shot is required for all shotgun hunting.

  • Trapping is prohibited.

Tree Stand Limitations

  • Permanent tree stands and climbing devices are prohibited.
  • Portable tree stands and climbing devices that do not use nails, wire, or bolts for attachment are allowed during Nebraska deer hunting season.
  • Screw-in steps only.
  • No more than one portable tree stand per licensed hunter.
  • Name, address, and phone number of the owner or user must be on the stand and be legible and visible from the ground.
  • Other blinds or elevated platforms not attached to a tree must also conform to the specified dates and labeling requirement.
Questions regarding visitor use or hunting at Bow Creek Recreation Area, please call the National Park Service headquarters at 605-665-0209.


Last updated: February 21, 2020

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

508 East 2nd Street
Yankton, SD 57078


605-665-0209 x21

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