Operating Hours & Seasons
We have no National Park Service Visitor Center at this time. The Niobrara National Scenic River Headquarters Office (402) 376-1901 is located at 214 W. Highway 20 in Valentine, Nebraska. This office is usually open Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. though the office may be closed as rangers are often in the field. If closed, please visit the Valentine Chamber of Commerce located on Main Street to obtain information about the park.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates a visitor center at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge that explains Fort Niobrara history, local wildlife, and refuge management. Several wayside exhibits addressing Scenic River use and safety are located at the Fort Niobrara launch site. The visitor center (402) 376-3789 is located 4 miles east of Valentine off of Hwy 12. http://FortNiobrara.fws.gov
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission operates Smith Falls State Park with a visitor center open from May through mid-September (402) 376-1306. It is located 15 miles east of Valentine on Hwy 12 and 4 miles south on a county gravel road. http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/parks/guides/parksearch/showpark.asp?Area_No=308
Niobrara Council: The Niobrara Council is a state-recognized organization dedicated to assist the National Park Service and other partners in managing the Niobrara River, coordinating development and carrying out a conservation easement program.
The 16 member council has representatives from local, state and federal governments, local landowners, county commissioners, area industries and the environmental community. Their office is located on 280 N. Main Street in Valentine. Here you can find visitor information as well. They are generally open Monday-Friday from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. (402) 376-2793 http://www.niobraracouncil.org/
During spring floating conditions, be prepared for variable or unsettled weather and higher water levels. Many migratory birds pass through the valley and nesting Canada geese are often encountered.
June is generally a month of transition and by July temperatures can soar into the 90's and low 100's. The hot weather usually lasts through mid to late August.
Fall brings cooler temperatures, brilliant leaf colors and clearer water. Winter floats are possible (using private equipment) if the river has not iced over. The Cornell Bridge to Smith Falls stretch is normally ice free for most of the winter.
Did You Know?
Six distinct ecosystems blend along 76 miles of river: eastern deciduous forest, Rocky Mountain montane forest, northern boreal forest, eastern tall-grass prairie, Sandhills mixed-grass and western short-grass prairie. Click "More" to visit the Niobrara National Scenic River "Nature & Science" page. More...