Completed: September 27, 2013
The Niobrara River begins in Wyoming and ends in Missouri, but primarily flows through northern Nebraska. Completing the Junior Ranger booklet gives you an appreciation for the diversity of the river. As the river stretches for 535 miles you can approach the river from many places. Luckily I arrived in Valentine, almost in the middle of the state, and picked up the booklet at the Visitor Center. The ranger was very enthusiastic. She recommended I take the booklet, work on it as I continued to travel east and mail it back when completed.
Inside the front cover it is listed that the booklet “is designed for kids ages 6 – 12, but all ages are welcome”. If you are over 9 you are to complete all of the activity pages. With an upper age listed this program is listed without the Senior Friendly tag, however I appreciated the ranger’s encouragement to complete.
After we left Valentine we visited the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, which the river flows through. After a short hike along a nature trail and drive through the refuge for some birding we continued east and camped at Smith Falls State Park, also part of the river system. A nice walk from the campground brings you to Smith Falls, tallest waterfall in Nebraska.
The booklet highlights; using your senses, source of the water and it’s variety of uses, a game traveling the river, geology, mammal fossils, animal tracks, fire cycle and a photo bingo. Of the sixteen images on the bingo I was able to observe eleven in the twenty-four hours I spent along the Niobrara National Scenic River.