Discover the Deepest Lake in Nebraska

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: June 2, 2023
© Bob Pool/
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The midwest state of Nebraska is right in the middle of the Great Plains and has miles and miles of flat grasslands and corn fields. But the landscape is dotted with a few natural lakes as well as some larger human-made reservoirs. Some of the more popular lakes like Lake C (Cunningham) and Lake Wanahoo may be great recreational lakes but are they also some of the deepest? Just how deep is the deepest lake? Read on to discover all about the deepest lake in Nebraska.

What is the Deepest Lake in Nebraska?

The deepest lake in Nebraska is Lake McConaughy. The locals call it “Big Mac” due to its size. It covers more than 30,000 acres and is 22 miles long and is 4 miles wide at the widest point. It is located just north of Hwy 80 near Ogallala, NE. The Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area is a popular place for boating, swimming, fishing, and camping. While some campgrounds have rows and rows of trailers at Lake McConaughy, you can camp right on the sandy white beaches. Campers and tents are allowed just steps from the water.  

Lake McConaughy
“Big Mac,” as the locals call it, spans more than 30,000 acres and is 22 miles long.


How Deep is the Deepest Lake in Nebraska?

The deepest lake in Nebraska is 142 feet deep. The deepest spot in Lake McConaughy is at the dam when the water levels are at full capacity. The Kingsley Dam manages the water on the North Platte River for the irrigation of thousands of acres of corn, wheat, and soybean throughout the state.

What Kind of Fish are in Lake McConaughy?

There are a variety of fish in the lake including rainbow trout, northern pike, yellow perch, white bass, and smallmouth bass. The fishing is good too with several state fishing records being pulled from the lake.

What Do Trout Eat - Rainbow Trout Bursting from Surface
Rainbow trout are commonly found in Lake McConaughy.


What Fishing Records have been from Lake McConaughy?

Three of the four state fish records pulled from Lake McConaughy were all caught in the same month in the same year! July 1971 was the lucky month for fishing on Lake McConaughy. First, on July 3, 1971, Lyle Fry reeled in the biggest Coho Salmon ever caught in the state. His Coho weighed in at 5 pounds 12 ounces and was 26.25 inches long.

July 5, 1971, Herbert Cutshall caught the record-breaking walleye at 16 pounds 2 ounces and 33 inches long (that’s almost 3 feet!).

Almost a week later, on July 11, 1971, Neal Dunbar caught a 4-pound 2-ounce Kokanee Salmon. All three records were pulled from Lake McConaughy and all three records have stood for more than 50 years!

What is the Most Recent Fish Record in Nebraska?

Four state records were broken in 2020, including the impressive 89-pound flathead catfish caught on the Missouri River. Here are the four newest records:

  • Flathead catfish: 89 pounds, Richard L. Hagen, June 6, 2020, Missouri River
  • Striped Hybrid: 21 pounds 9 ounces, Tou Kong Yang, June 14, 2020, Lake McConaughy
  • Silver Carp: 15 pounds 1 ounce, Hayden Hall, February 29, 2020, Duck Creek
  • Flathead Chub: 3 ounces (flathead chubs are large minnows that only get to be 3-7 inches long), Danal Wilkie, June 3, 2020, Milburn Diversion Dam

Is the Deepest Lake also the Biggest Lake in Nebraska?

Lake McConaughy is also the biggest lake in the state. The lake is 22 miles long and almost 4 miles wide and spans 30,000 acres.

What is the Second Biggest Lake in Nebraska?

The second biggest lake in Nebraska is the Harlan County Reservoir. This reservoir is located just a tad north of the southern border of Nebraska and Kansas. This oasis of water is also a recreational lake with several boat ramps, two campgrounds, and excellent fishing. Popular fish in the lake include walleye, channel catfish, and wipers.

One noted historical fact about the Harlan County Reservoir dates back to May 31, 1935, when a huge storm hit the town of Republic City and caused massive flooding. Nearly 2 feet of rain fell on the Republican River Watershed resulting in 100 deaths. The bridges, roads, and railways were also washed away. Livestock and cattle were missing after the flood, seemingly washed downstream. The town was devastated but united to rebuild. This time they built it further from the river, about 2 miles north, and on higher ground. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plotted out the best place for a dam to prevent future floods. This dam is the Harlan County Reservoir.

Harlan County Lake
The second biggest lake in Nebraska is the Harlan County Reservoir.

©Ken Lund/CCBYSA2.0

Is there a Ghost Town in the Bottom of Lake McConaughy?

The town of Lemoyne was flooded on purpose by the government in the late 1930s/early 1940s when they started making the reservoir. Due to the recent droughts, the water levels in Lake McConaughy are getting lower and revealing portions of the old town. An old cement root cellar of one of the resident’s homes is now visible. Beverly Harris, a local resident, says the cellar is from her grandparents’ home.

The drought has brought the water levels in many central and southwestern states to record low levels. The receding water is revealing everything from old shipwrecks to human remains, which turned up in Lake Mead by the Hoover Dam.

Where is Lake McConaughy Located on a Map?

A reservoir on the North Platte River is called Lake McConaughy. It is situated close to Nebraska Highway 61 and U.S. Highway 26 about 9 miles north of Ogallala, Nebraska, in the United States. Charles W. McConaughy, a grain dealer and the mayor of Holdrege, Nebraska, who was a key proponent of the project, had the reservoir named in his honor.

Here is the Lake McConaughy on a map:

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Lake McConaughy
Lake McConaughy is the largest and deepest lake in Nebraska.
© Bob Pool/

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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  1. Outdoor Nebraska (1970)
  2., Available here:
  3. Britannica, Available here:
  4. USGS, Available here: