My Site: Niobrara National Scenic River by Leona

My first week at my site has been an exciting one full of training and exploring. My site, Niobrara National Scenic River, is a designated scenic river, but the park does not own the land surrounding the river. Through cooperation with outfitters and landowners, Niobrara River is a great place to go birding, tubing, and kayaking. It is at a point in the country where many different ecosystems meet, and eastern and western species overlap their range, resulting in new hybrid species. Nearby there are many places of interest to visit, such as Smith Falls State Park, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, and the Valentine State Fish Hatchery.

Buffalo herds at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge

Hiking trails through Smith Falls State Park lead you to wetlands surrounding the river and up to the beautiful waterfall. There is also a landing for getting on or off the river. Another great hiking trail near the river is the Fort Niobrara Falls in Fort Niobrara NWR. Here you can see many birds including an array of warblers singing in the trees as this trail leads you through three different ecosystems: grasslands, deciduous forest, and ponderosa pine forest. You can also see the buffalo herds at Fort Niobrara NWR!

Valentine State Fish Hatchery is a great place to fish for a variety of species including bass, bluegill, and walleye. Other fishing opportunities on the river or on the various ponds found nearby provide an array of native and nonnative fishes. I will be leading several junior angler clinics throughout the summer, so I will be able to check out many of these locations myself!

Smith Falls State Park

Boating and tubing are the most popular activities on the Niobrara River. Starting at the Cornell Launch Site and floating or paddling down the river is a great and relaxing pastime. On the river you can see a variety of waterfowl such as the Canada goose, common merganser, killdeer, spotted sandpiper, as well as some endangered species such as the least tern and piping plover. Other common birds on the river include turkey vultures, bank swallows, barn swallows, and eastern kingbirds.

The beauty and diversity of my site has been amazing, and I have barely begun to explore it! I am excited to see what else I will see and where else I will go!

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