One of the best vacation destinations for families in Nebraska has to be the Niobrara Scenic River, just outside of Valentine, Nebraska.
For most people a good family vacation needs to meet several criteria. First, there must be enough activity to keep children happy and busy. Second, for many families, budget is a consideration as well. And many parents would like their children to learn something, even while vacationing. Vacations should be a great time for children and adults to discover new interests and develop a curiosity about the world.
The Niobrara meets all these requirements and much more. To begin, a 78-mile stretch of the Niobrara River has been designated a Wild and Scenic River and is administered by the National Park Service. As such, it offers not only a chance for the entire family to discover this rare beauty, but lots of educational opportunities for children.
The most popular activity is simply enjoying this splendid river. There are lots of outfitters if you need to rent a boat, canoe, tube or kayak and shuttle services are available through them. Some enjoy a lazy float down the river, taking in some of the 200 waterfalls en route. Others go in the spring when water levels are high and currents stronger. At these times, expect to encounter Class-II rapids. Otherwise, relax and enjoy the trip!
Horseback riding is naturally a part of this adventure. After all, you are in cowboy country and there is a trail named Cowboy Trail. It is great for hiking, cycling and running as well as horseback riding.
Those with an interest in wildlife will find plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing and study. One popular attraction: observing the Sandhill Crane. More than 250 species of birds visit this region during the year.
Fishing is another popular activity along the Niobrara. Those who enjoy this sport will not be disappointed in the opportunities they find along the river. Rainbow and brown trout are found along the tributaries. Other species include catfish, carp and bluegill. Permits and regulations are available through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
In the wintertime, the river freezes and the cliffs lining the river become ice cliffs. This offers those interested in ice-climbing a fine opportunity to practice their skills and enjoy the wonders of a winter landscape.
Accommodations are quite reasonable in this area. Camping is available at Smith State Park nearby. Cabins are another option to consider. Many have fully equipped kitchens that allow you to prepare your own meals and help control the family vacation budget. Motels and hotels are located in nearby in the town of Valentine.
For details and further information on planning your family vacation to the Niobrara, visit the National Park Service website at nps.gov/niob/, which features updated information on water level and other activities.
National Park Service