The Niobrara moves quickly, and with an average flow of six to eight miles an hour it is not necessary to paddle hard. Paddles are used for steering, tracking, and slowing down to enjoy the scenery, and there is much to see. The Niobrara River valley has been referred to as a biological crossroads. Lying almost in the middle of the 100th meridian, where the humid air of the East meets the drier air of the West, six distinct ecosystems exist, including the only instance in the United States where Rocky Mountain pine forest, northern forest, eastern deciduous forest, tallgrass prairie, mixed-grass prairie, and sandhills prairie converge.
Exploring a Vast Ecosystem
As a biological crossroads, the Niobrara River valley hosts an exceptionally diverse range of life. More than 200 birds have been found here including golden eagles, blue- and black-headed grosbeaks, lazuli buntings, Townsend's solitaire, eastern and western kingbird, loggerhead shrike, and eastern bluebird. Birds share the airspace with seven species of bats including the red bat, silver-haired bat, and keen myotis. Mammals that may be seen include mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyotes, red foxes, bobcats, badgers, long-tailed weasel beavers, white-tailed and black-tailed jackrabbits, and a lively population of black-tailed prairie dogs. Over 30 species of amphibians, as well as the prairie rattlesnake, make their home here.
Plant life exists in profusion. Trees include ponderosa pine, cottonwood, quaking aspen, paper birch, American elm, and eastern red cedar. Grasslands are home to little bluestem, switchgrass, blue grama, and sideoats grama, among others. Wildflowers such as milkweed and sunflower can be found in large numbers. Other plants like yucca and prickly pear grow in the mixed-grass prairies north of the Niobrara.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication