Water resources are of the utmost importance to the Niobrara National Scenic River. The Niobrara is a favorite vacation destination for outdoor enthusiasts each summer. Most visitors come to canoe, kayak, tube, swim, or fish.
The staff at Niobrara National Scenic River has recently implemented a long-term water quality monitoring program that monitors dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, conductivity, and a variety of other chemical factors specifically targeting tributaries with major waterfall attractions and various points along the mainstem of the Niobrara. In the future, resource management staff will also implement an aquatic invertebrate sampling program that will complement the chemical component of the water quality monitoring program, and will give a more comprehensive evaluation of the ecological impacts to the Niobrara National Scenic River watershed.
Surface water quality is monitored on a five year rotational schedule by Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ). Resource management staff at Niobrara NSR have incorporated a long-term water quality monitoring program since 2001. Ground and surface water quality is generally good. The NDEQ rated the Niobrara a Class A, unimpaired waterway. Monthly samples indicated fecal coliform bacterial counts were within standards for water contact recreation. All major bridge crossings are monitored for temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, conductivity, alkalinity, salinity, nitrates/nitrogen, phosphates, and ammonia. Tributaries in the canoeable reach are also included in this monitoring program, however only turbidity, pH, conductivity, and temperature are measured at those locations. E. coli has also been evaluated to determine if fecal coliform bacteria is impacting the river on a seasonal basis. Additional information regarding surface water quality monitoring programs in Nebraska and river flow conditions for the Niobrara can be found on the links below.
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Current and recent water levels
USGS flow gauge