Top Ten Kid-Tested Rivers
If you think Nebraska is flat and uninteresting, try the Niobrara River, which runs through a valley carved by the water, several hundred feet deep in places. Nearby you'll find a unique meeting of three vast forests: Rocky Mountain, Eastern, and Great Northern. Ponderosa pines grow near red cedars, which grow near paper birches. Above the valley, grass-covered sand dunes roll away for thousands of square miles, the Sandhills of Nebraska.
In three unhurried days you can paddle the 76 miles of the Niobrara designated Wild and Scenic. From the town of Valentine, Nebraska, after approximately five miles, you'll enter the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. You won't see them from your canoe, but, if you have time, stop and take the kids on a search for bison, elk, and a herd of Texas longhorn cattle.
About 11 miles from the put-in you can camp at Smith Falls State Park and see the state's tallest waterfall. Campgrounds along the river are often privately owned, and fees are charged. After 32 miles (where you can take-out) the bluffs grow less dramatic but the river flows gently on.
When: Late summer and early fall, especially on weekdays, offer cooler temperatures and less traffic.
Canoe rentals are available. No permits are required.
For more info: Valentine Visitors Center; (800) 658-4024
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication