Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. the wetlands at Fontenelle forest provide a unique setting often used for public access activities such as canoeing and bird watching, many educational camps and classroom programs, which teach children about conservation.

READ the most recent wetlands update


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what is a wetland? 

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spring 2019 flood recovery Timeline

How wetlands are unique in a flooding situation:

Our wetlands start flooding when the Missouri River at Omaha reaches 24.5 ft. That is assuming the soil isn’t already saturated.

When the 2019 floods hit, our wetlands were already saturated from moisture received in the fall of 2018.

In addition, when the river recedes, our wetlands do not recede at the same rate as other areas, because our wetlands are basins, which continue to hold water.

The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources provides a detailed story map of the historic 2019 flooding in Nebraska.

  • Fall 2018

    Hidden Lake Trail froze with several inches to one foot of water on it. Due to this our Wetlands were already saturated leading up to the historic spring floods of 2019.

  • a flooded sign
    March 14, 2019

    When the flooding of 2019 hit, water rose more quickly than expected. Fontenelle Forest staff attempted to secure canoes/kayaks, but the river rose so quickly it was too late. They attempted to secure several structures, including the building and many items inside the building. Some items were able to be saved, but unfortunately, some were lost. The Wetlands at Fontenelle Forest were closed indefinitely.

  • a picture of two people standing in flood water with a camera on a tripod behind them.
    April 2019

    Fontenelle Forest began working with FEMA to secure funding assistance.

  • a picture of people wading through flood water
    June 5, 2019

    Additional flooding occurred, reaching the second flood crest of the year.

  • several people dressed head to toe in white protective gear carrying boxes.
    July 16, 2019

    The first FEMA inspection occurred, to include the parking lot and the building structure.

  • a picture of a building in a flooded wetland.
    September 22, 2019

    Additional flooding occurred, reaching the third flood crest of the year.

  • a picture of a wooden overlook over a body of water
    October 29, 2019

    The second FEMA inspection occurred, to include the observation tower and boardwalk.

  • A picture of a flooded visitor sign
    December 31, 2019

    The third FEMA inspection occurred, to include debris fields at Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods (areas still inaccessible).

  • Fontenelle Forest Trails Winter 2020 timeline
    January 2020

    Select Wetland trails were opened for public use. For details, click on the map link at the bottom of this page.

  • a picture of a broken piece of boardwalk
    January 2020

    Future planned projects & repairs:
    There is much work still to be done. We are currently researching options for contracting out the repair of the observation tower, boardwalk and the bridge to Mormon Hollow. At this time we are planning to utilize staff and volunteers to repair and replace the docks. See below for a list of planned projects and repairs.

  • a broken piece of boardwalk
    January 2020

    FEMA has awarded a 75% match of flood recovery funds up to $250,000, for the clean-up and repair of approved structures/areas. This means Fontenelle Forest will be required to fund the remaining 25% of the work. We are embarking on a fundraising campaign to raise the necessary funds to complete the planned repairs.

  • March 21, 2020

    Deadline to have all debris cleanup completed at Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods.

  • a sign near water in a wetland.
    May 2020

    Wetland delineation.

  • A picture of a body of water with grass in front and trees in the background
    August 2020

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit obtained.

  • October 2020

    Construction bidding in process.

  • a picture of long grasses and weeds with shrubbery near the back.
    November 2020

    Construction begins!

  • March 2021

    Construction ends.

  • May 2021


Support wetland recovery efforts

FEMA provides a 75% match of recovery funds for the clean-up and repair of approved structures/areas. This means Fontenelle Forest was required to fund the remaining 25% of the work.

Federally mandated projects/repairs approved by FEMA:
  • Debris clean up
  • Wetlands parking lot
  • Bird blind
  • Teaching Pond Dock
  • Canoe Dock
  • Wetlands Bridge
  • Wetlands Boardwalk

How you can help:


Although FEMA granted us funds for the recovery effort, Fontenelle Forest was required to raise additional funds to meet the match requirement and complete all necessary repairs. The estimated total for all seven FEMA-mandated projects was approximately $250,000. Fontenelle Forest was required to raise the additional funds needed to meet the FEMA requirements and complete additional repairs to structures and areas not included in the FEMA projects. A

Although the initial wetlands restoration project is complete, there are more improvements to be made. Your support will help Fontenelle Forest to restore our Wetlands (a unique local resource) to its full potential, so that it may be utilized for public access, education camps, and classroom programs for years to come.

As with any land conservation area, ongoing upkeep is needed to keep this ecosystem healthy and make it a safe environment for the wildlife that calls it home. Donate today to help maintain our wetlands and other natural resources, keeping them beautiful and safe for all of our members and guests to enjoy!

Donate Now

Pop-up workdays at wetlands: We occasionally have pop-up workdays for clean-up and improvements to our wetlands and other natural resource areas. They will be based on weather conditions and equipment availability. If you’re interested in helping watch our website and social media for announcements regarding dates and times.

Pick up trash: When hiking on the open wetlands trails, please help us by picking up trash you find immediately adjacent to the trail. Do not pick up anything which may be hazardous, and for your safety please remain on-trail, or within a few feet of the trail. There is a dumpster in the parking lot where you can place all trash.

Respect the closed areas: As with any of our land management areas, closures are sometimes necessary for clean up, conservation projects and/or improvements. Any future closures are in place for public safety, as well as work-site preservation. For everyone’s safety, please respect all closures.


contact us:

Questions? Submit your questions about the Wetlands or the flood recovery process via the form below.

SUBMIT QUESTIONS about the wetlands

Fontenelle Forest is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit.

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