A place to enjoy the outdoors and discover history

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – A 24-acre lake nestled in a valley just east of Highway 281 and south of Bartlett offers visitors a chance to relax and enjoy nature.

We recently visited Pibel Lake enthusiast Alan Bartels about this place. Bartels is also part of the Bas-Loup Natural Resources District which now manages Lake Pibel.

“This lake has a long and interesting history,” Bartels said. “Pibel Lake was formed around 1894 or 1895. It was an irrigation project that started in Ericson in the mid-1890s. The project went through the eastern Sandhills and here through Clear Creek. William Pibel left England in the 1880s. He later operated the post office at Pibel here in the 1890s and later became the superintendent of a company which managed land along this system of irrigation. The irrigation project failed and Mr. Pibel returned to England. But the lake that bears his name is still there today.

For decades, Lake Pibel has been a popular place for recreation. “Shortly after the formation of the lake, an enterprising man built a hotel on the east side of the lake,” Bartels said. “It didn’t last long and it burned. Later, a Mr. Gilroy built a hotel on top of a hill on the west side of the lake. It was a large hotel for the time, with a large dining room and the only gas station for miles. It became a fishing area, a picnic area and just a chance for people to get outside.

Pibel Lake was privately owned until around 1930 when the state of Nebraska purchased it.

“The Game and Parks Commission has operated it as a recreation site for decades,” Bartels said. “In 2012, transfer of ownership to the Bas-Loup Natural Resources District. At that time, all sorts of improvements began. They installed a pedestrian bridge at the north end of the lake, as well as a path. At the south end of the lake they installed new toilets, there are a few fishing docks and a picnic shelter, then a local person named Hope Peterson donated money to install a new playground .

There are many other stories around the lake. At one time, at the northeast corner of the lake, there was a one-room schoolhouse named Pibel School District 1. And just across from where the school was located is a cemetery that still stands . It is called the “Pibel Pleasant Hill Cemetery”. Also, at the northern end of the lake, you will find the Pibel Bible Camp, which has existed since 1930 and is an integral part of the lake.

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