Trip Overview76 miles of the Niobrara River were added by Congress to the Wild & Scenic River system in 1991. One of the most popular sections is from Valentine, NE (Fort Niobrara NWR) to Rocky Ford, a 22-mile stretch of fast water (Cl I-II). Towering sandstone cliffs, numerous waterfalls, abundant wildlife and forested hills (ponderosa pine, paper birch/aspen, and various hardwoods) are sights along the way. Most folks spend 1-2 days floating this section of the river. About 40,000 floaters a year use this stretch, mostly from late June through mid-August, but fall colors are spectacular with clear water and cooler temperatures. Other sections of the river are floatable (Class I-IV) too.
Accommodations:Various private outfitters and campgrounds along the river. Smith Falls State Park has a public campground. Hotels, restaurants, etc. in Valentine & local towns.
Fees:Fees vary among outfitters for canoe/kayak & tube rentals, access and camping. Fees are charged at the state park (entrance/camping) and wildlife refuge (launch fee).
Directions:Valentine, NE is 3 1/2 hours SE of Rapid City, SD via I-90 and US Hwy 83; 5 1/2 hours west of Omaha via US Hwy 275 and 20; or 6 hours east of Denver via I-76/I-80 and US Hwy 83.
Launches:Public: Fort Niobrara Natl. Wildlife Refuge (fee); Smith Falls State Park (fee); Middle Niobrara NRD Brewer Bridge; and many private sites.
Contact:National Park Service -- Niobrara National Scenic River
P.O. Box 319 Valentine, NE 69201
www.nps.gov (402) 376-1901
Resources:NPS brochure for Niobrara National Scenic River.
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)