Frequently Asked Questions

River Gauge at Berry Bridge
River Gauge at Berry Bridge (Sparks, NE USGS Gauge)

NPS Photo

General Information

Where can I rent canoes, tubes or kayaks?
Local businesses provide watercraft rental, shuttle, campground and lodging services and provide river access at other landings along the river. To make reservations, contact the business of your choice from this list of known service providers.

How much does it cost to float the river? What about fees?
Click on the link above to navigate to the list of private outfitters. Also go to the "Fees & Passes" page under "Plan Your Visit".

Where can I camp?
Where do I find information about cabins for rent? Click on the link above to navigate to the list of private outfitters and contact them for current prices and availability. Camping is also available at Smith Falls State Park.

Where can I get my National Park Passport stamped?
Passport cancellation stations are located at the Niobrara National Scenic River Headquarters Offic, 214 W. Hwy 20, in Valentine, Nebraska and at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge visitor center 4 miles east of Valentine off of Hwy 12.

Is there enough water to float the river?
The lowest river levels usually occur from mid-July to mid-September. During years of low flow (drought) it is possible that floaters may have to occasionally drag their craft over shallow places or carefully navigate over bedrock or through rapids. By late fall, river levels begin to rise as demands for river water for irrigation subside. Studies are currently underway to determine minimal and optimal flows for recreational floating. Information on current river levels can be found here.

Commercial Use Authorizations

Why do we issue a Commercial Use Authorizations?
Any commercial service provided in a National Park area is required by 36 CFR §5.3
Business Operations, to have an authorization or permit.

36 CFR §5.3 Engaging in or soliciting any business in park areas, except in accordance with the provisions of a permit, contract, or other written agreement with the United States, except as such may be specifically authorized under special regulations applicable to a park area, is prohibited.

CUAs provide a service or activity to our visitors in a manner consistent to the highest practicable degree with the mission of the National Park Service, including the preservation and conservation of park resources and values, and an enjoyable visitor experience. The activities or services provided include not only canoe and tube liveries, but guided canoe trips, and guided fishing and/or hunting trips on the river. A private person or group does not need a CUA when they are using their own equipment, such as children's camps, outdoor clubs, and non-profit institutions.

Are there restrictions on what type of businesses can be issued CUAs?
Yes, Commercial Use Authorizations may only be issued to authorize services that:
  • Are determined to be an appropriate use of the Niobrara National Scenic River, such as: fishing and/or hunting guides, river trip guides, or canoe/raft/tube liveries.
  • Will have minimal impact on park resources and values, and on private land owners;
  • Are consistent with the purpose for which the Niobrara National Scenic River was established, as defined in the General Management Plan, Foundation Document, and draft River Management Plan.
What are the requirements of a Commercial Use Authorization and do they apply to all CUAs regardless of the type of activity?
  • All CUA holders are required to carry Commercial General Liability insurance in the amount of $1,000,000. The insurance must name the United States of America as additionally insured.
  • All CUAs must comply with all State and/or local laws and regulations, including any permits or licenses necessary to conduct business activity with the State of Nebraska.
  • All CUA holders are required to report revenue and visitation statistics annually to the NPS.
  • Other conditions may vary according to the type of commercial activity or service they provide. They are clearly defined in the application process. Some examples are:
    • Boating activities require that visitors be issued a US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device/life jacket properly sized for each visitor;
    • All CUA holders are required to provide a river safety orientation to all visitors before starting;
    • All CUA holders must inform client that most all the land on both sides of the river is private property and trespass laws will be enforced;
    • All CUAs encourage an environmental awareness by informing their clients that recycling and litter bags should be tied onto vessels (tubes, canoes, kayaks, etc.), and glass and Styrofoam containers are discouraged.
Does the CUA authorize activities on land or just on the river?
The CUA is issued to authorize activities only on the river, to the ordinary high water mark along the Niobrara River within the Niobrara National Scenic River from the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge boundary downstream to Hwy 137. Permits are already required on the river within the Ft. Niobrara NWR boundaries.

Last updated: December 14, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

214 W US Highway 20
Valentine, NE 69201


(402) 376-1901

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