Lower Niobrara River Valley Driving Tour Miles 0 to 5 - Human History

Abandoned homestead in the Niobrara River Valley
Abandoned homestead in the Niobrara River Valley



Mile 0.0 - Start in the Village of Niobrara, Nebraska and take Highway 12 west

Niobrara: The village of Niobrara was founded in 1856 at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers . A claim to the area was made when a group of men constructed a log garrison on the banks of the Missouri. The town was eventually named "Niobrara" for the nearby river. It is an Indian word which means "Running Water."Flooding has played a prominent and fatal role in the village's history. A spring thaw in March 1881 flooded the town and it had to be moved.The Missouri again spilled over its banks and into the town during the spring of 1952. Even with Fort Randall Dam's completion in the 1950's flooding still continued to be a major issue. Silt from the Niobrara River caused the river bed to rise at its confluence with the Missouri. The water level rose and in 1973 the town was yet again moved to higher ground. Niobrara continues to hope for the best, but is preparing to face the challenges of siltation and the possibility of rising river waters.

Mile 3.0 – Turn left onto 522
nd Ave. - Soon you will see the Mormon Monument
Mormon Monument: Newel Knight, his family, and a company of Mormons, left Nauvoo, Illinois, to search out a home in the West in the late 1840s. Due to hardships, the group could not go on and they built a fort of log cabins by the Niobrara River. Due to illness, all died. The Mormon Monument was built in 1908. Those buried there are: Newell Knight, Mr. Caval, Lucy Brunson, Ann Boyce, Mr. Rufus Tach, Mrs. Spicer Crandall, Mrs. Newell Drake, Mrs. Dame Gardurout Noble and Benjamin F. Mauer 1846 - 1847.

Mile 4.0– Turn left onto 521st Ave.
Ponca Tribal Self-Help Community Building Historic District:The main structure in the district is the Ponca Tribal Self-Help Community Building (Community Building) constructed in 1936. The district is significant for its association with the Indian Emergency Conservation Work program, a New Deal program designed to provide relief for Native Americans during the Great Depression. The Community Building is still today an important cultural center for the Ponca Tribe in Nebraska.

Mile 5.0
– Veer left as road turns to gravel

Spotlight on Human History The lower Niobrara river valley and its adjacent lands have provided a livelihood for generations of Native Americans, farmers and ranchers. Prior to Euro-American settlement this was the homeland of the Ponca tribe. They hunted inland while using the river valley for shelter and sustenance. Ponca culture was irreparably altered by contact with fur traders and more disruptively white settlers. They were removed from the land by the United States Government and sent to live in what was then known as Indian Territory, present day Oklahoma. Many Ponca fought back by traveling back to their traditional lands. They became known as the Northern Ponca.Today the Poncas no longer have a reservation in the area, but they do have a presence with a tribal headquarters and buffalo pasture. Following the removal of the Ponca, Czech and German immigrants came to this valley in the latter part of the 19
th century, finding the freedom, land and space they craved. On this driving tour you will see both past and present reminders of their impact on the landscape. Farms and ranches have been placed on this landscape by these immigrant settlers to maximize the land's agricultural output.

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Lower Niobrara River Valley Driving Tour - Miles 5 to 15

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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