Niobrara River, Nebraska (Read 2120 times)
Mountain_Paddler
Inukshuk
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Niobrara River, Nebraska
Jun 2nd, 2011 at 7:01am
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Rocky Mountain Canoe Club had 13 boats in the water over the weekend going on the Niobrara River east of Valentine, Nebraska.  Very scenic; very different from the typical "desert canyon" we encounter west of the Rockies.  First two days, 22 miles or so of beginner river with a single class I rapids.  Ended the second day immediately above the only class III, then put in the third day just below the class III--the club had a second trip going the same memorial day weekend that was a lot more challenging, and so this Niobrara trip was advertised not to include class IIIs.  Anyhow, a few class IIs the third day; the trip leader "encouraged" me not to do the third day, because of my limited river-paddling experience.  Several others excused themselves from the third day--either because they had to get back to work or because they did not want to tackle class IIs.  

This place was green and beautiful--certainly did not mesh with my prejudices about Nebraska, based only on a couple visits to Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha and driving on I-80.  Numerous small waterfalls entering right onto the river, and some bigger ones only a five or ten minute walk from the river.  Only problem was we were against a pretty strong wind the entire second day, and I paddled against it solo the whole 11 miles.  Not bad for a 70-year-old!

We camped each night at Smith Falls State Park; nice campsite along the river.  Lush green grass.  No hookups, so avoided much of the nonsense you can encounter in a camper/RV campground.  Almost everyone in the campsite was in tents.

Am told that in only a couple weeks, extending for the entire summer, this place becomes much less desirable with all sorts of folks descending on it for tubing and short, open plastic kayaks.  And lots of college age kids turning it into some sort of variant of Spring break.  So when you do it, they said, if you want a peaceful river experience, then go early (Memorial Day and before), or after school starts again.

This river, by the way, is fed by the Ogallala aquifer and so maintains a fairly steady level all year round.  Is not dependent on melting snow in the rockies.  No mosquitos to speak of--lots of bats keep them under control.  Highly recommended.  Lots of commercial places will rent you a canoe, if you are in the area without your canoe.  Definitely worth a two-day delay in your trip across Nebraska; add a third day if your river skills can deal with class II rapids.  If you are there also without camping equipment, there are plenty of motels and cabins in the area.

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Ranger
Voyageur
Inukshuk
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Re: Niobrara River, Nebraska
Reply #1 - Jun 3rd, 2011 at 12:30pm
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I've done some day trips on the Niobrara - great little river. I usually go in the fall, my last trip was in October.
  
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SunCatcher
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Re: Niobrara River, Nebraska
Reply #2 - Sep 26th, 2011 at 11:44am
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I just finished two days on the river.  We started at The Wildlife Refuge and stopped at Sunnybrook Outfitters.  Tent camped there (about 20 miles)  6.5 - 7 hours.  Stopped at Fort Falls a must see, Smith Falls and had lunch there about 1 pmish, and Big Cedar Falls?  Next morning 50 minutes from Sunnybrook outfitters camp to Rocky Ford.  a 50-70 yard portage around falls, another hour to Egelhoff's Rapids, and about another 1.5 hours to the Norden Bridge.  About a 30 mile paddle in two easy days.  GREAT Trip.  From Nebraska, done this trip several times, I like the Fall trips, No one else ussually on River so Fall color's and quite time with River to ourself.
SunCatcher
  
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Jim J Solo
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Re: Niobrara River, Nebraska
Reply #3 - Apr 2nd, 2021 at 9:31am
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