Niobrara National Scenic River
Guide

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Introduction

Gorgeous waterfalls, wildlife, diverse vegetation, and scenic bluffs are just some of the features that characterize Niobrara National Scenic River’s winding path. Along the 76-mile path of this river in Nebraska, there are plenty of opportunities to appreciate nature, learn about the history of Niobrara, have fun with family and friends, and have a wonderful time away from home. This prairie river, designated under the US National Wild & Scenic Rivers System, is indeed extraordinary.

Although there are no provisions for camping at Niobrara National Scenic River, there are loads of opportunities for fun. As you visit this park, you should begin your exploration at the Visitor Center where you’ll see exhibits and films about the park, as well as rangers that you can ask questions about Niobrara. If you possess appropriate hunting licenses, you can also hunt on public lands, and private lands (with permission), within the park. Fishing opportunities are also abundant in the river and its tributaries. Water-related recreational activities such as canoeing, kayaking, tubing and floating are among the most popular activities with visitors to the park.

Park Alerts (1)

[Caution] Life Jackets Required!

By Nebraska State law, all children 12 years old and younger must WEAR a USCG approved life jacket to float the Niobrara NSR. Anyone over 12 years old must HAVE a life jacket. If you are renting equipment, your outfitter will provide them.

RV Rentals in Niobrara National Scenic River

Transportation in Niobrara National Scenic River

Driving

Located around Valentine, Nebraska, Niobrara National Scenic River features a Visitor Center that can be accessed by vehicles along Highway 20. The park is located 76 miles south of Interstate 90. Only few parts of the park are can be accessed by vehicles.

Parking

Parking spaces are available for vehicles at the Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center.

Public Transport

There are no direct public transportation services to Niobrara National Scenic River.

Campgrounds and parking in Niobrara National Scenic River

Campsites in Niobrara National Scenic River

Reservations camping

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Smith Falls State Park

Located about 21 miles west of Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center, along County Road, Smith Falls State Park offers tent-only camping opportunities within 23 campsites. The park’s campground is accessible by RVs and trailers, but no RV facilities or campsites are available.

The campsites are, however, equipped with potable water, toilets, and showers. Pets are allowed. Rest assured you’ll enjoy beautiful sights of the Niobrara National Scenic River and Nebraska’s highest waterfall at the park.

Reservations are accepted.

Seasonal activities in Niobrara National Scenic River

Spring

Flora

Diverse ecosystems and plant communities are present within Niobrara River Valley, a site noted for the habitation of plants that thrive outside of their normal geographic limits. You’ll find that northern, western, and eastern forest ecosystems thrive in the area, in addition to three Great Plains prairie plant communities. All of these add up to about 160 plant species inhabiting the park.

Hunting

Excellent opportunities for game hunting are available at Niobrara National Scenic River, making the park a favored destination for hunters and trappers. If you fancy such activities, you’ll find waterfowl, game birds, white-tailed deer, as well as other wildlife that you can hunt for within the park’s area.

Note that public land available for hunting along the Niobrara is limited, while on the other hand, most of the land where hunting occurs is on private property. As a result, you’ll need to request permission from the landowner(s) before hunting on private property. Appropriate licenses are required too.

Summer

Birding

A diverse array of bird life calls the Niobrara Valley home. Visitors are likely to see great herons around the river; white pelicans, cormorants, and green herons migrating in spring; spotted sandpipers along the sandbars; and kingfishers on the water surface. Other birds you’ll find at the park include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, whooping cranes, and least tern.

In addition to these birds, several threatened and endangered bird species on federal and state lists are commonly found in Niobrara.

Fall

Canoeing/Kayaking

The majority of the visitors at Niobrara National Scenic River come there to float on the river either by canoe, kayak, tube, or raft. That’s because the activity is extremely enjoyable and refreshing. As a result, the park is a popular destination for these water-related recreational activities.

Whether in summer, spring, or fall, you’re guaranteed a wonderful paddling experience in your watercraft. What’s more is that there are opportunities to socialize with other paddlers while enjoying these activities. If you’d prefer a quiet trip, there’s room for that also.

Fishing

If you’re an angling enthusiast, then you’ll find that there are plenty of opportunities for you to enjoy fishing along the Niobrara National Scenic River as well as its many tributaries. Brown trout and rainbow trout are present within the tributaries of the river, and many skilled anglers are presented with challenges when trying to catch them.

Bait and lure fishing methods are sufficient to catch channel catfish, bluegill, carp, grass pickerel, and many other fish species available in the river. Remember you’ll need to have a valid fishing license to fish here.

Winter

Visitor Center

The Visitor Center at Niobrara National Scenic River is a great place to visit for its exhibits which provide information about Niobrara. At the center, a film about the park is on hand, as well as park rangers who are available to answer all your questions. Kids activities are also hosted at the center.

Attractions nearby include the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Niobrara Valley Preserve, and Smith Falls State Park. Guided walks and programs that tell stories about the park are offered by rangers at some of these areas too.

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