29 May Introducing the Beautiful Niobrara National Scenic River
The Niobrara National Scenic River is a beautiful 76 mile river that is protected by the National Parks Service. Over geologic history, the Niobrara has cut a 200-300 foot deep valley, creating the Niobrara Valley and over 230 waterfalls. The Niobrara hosts a unique habitat as it features six different types of ecosystems that co-exist. These ecosystems are the northern boreal forest, ponderosa pine forest, eastern deciduous forest, tallgrass prairie, mixed-grass prairie, and shortgrass prairie; all ecosystems that are unusual to be seen together. This co-existence of so many different types of ecosystems allows for an exceptional level of biodiversity along the Niobrara, with many of the flora and fauna species existing at the margins of their ranges.
The Niobrara River Valley is an important paleontology site as it contains numerous fossils from the late Cenozoic era. There are more that 160 paleontology sites along the Niobrara National Scenic River, with 15 of these sites being of international significance. Amazing prehistoric animal fossils have been found here, including a 20+ foot long tarpon-like predatory fish, a 33 foot long mosasaur, flying reptiles (pterosaurs), mastodons, mammoths, and giraffe-necked camels. Some of the wildlife that can be seen today are the once nearly extinct bison, pronghorns, bald eagles, the endangered least tern, the threatened piping plover, the recently delisted peregrine falcon, elk, deer, river otters, wood ducks, and prairie dogs. A free-roaming moose has also been spotted in the adjacent wildlife refuge.
As a visitor in the park, there are lots of fun outdoor activities for kids and adults. Canoeing, kayaking, and river rafting is a popular option on sunny days, especially for campers. Birdwatching is also a wonderful activity here, as there is a high level of bird diversity with western and eastern avian species coexisting here. For those that like to eat what they catch, fishing and hunting are good options as well. The hiking here is also amazing. Most hikes can be done along the river and creeks and many lead to some beautiful waterfalls.