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Niobrara River Memorial Day – MAY 24 -MAY 27

May 24May 27


This will be an ACA-sanctioned outing/event which requires EITHER ACA membership OR a $10/person insurance fee.  This is an easy, kids-friendly class 1 river, with our campground in the middle of the run.  Each day will be about 12 miles and about 4 hours. For more information about skill level and equipment information, see RMCC Boating Requirements and Recommendations.

This beautiful stretch is one of America’s premier scenic heritage waterways; we’ll see many waterfalls, beautiful hardwood forests, and birds!  And the resident buffalo herd at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/fort_niobrara/ ) often has calves this time of year.  We run the river on Saturday and Sunday. Most will car camp at Smith Falls State Park, Friday – Sunday nights; return to the Front Range after breakfast on Monday (about a 6-7 hour drive back to Denver) or continue to see the sights of Nebraska or head up to South Dakota.

Memorial Day is shoulder season in the Sand Hills of Nebraska and we often have rain on parts of one or more days. 

Niobrara River Trail description here . 

Description from Backpacker magazine:  http://www.backpacker.com/stories/paddle-nebraska-s-niobrara-river

River gage at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=06461500.  We generally run it at between 1000 and 2000 cfs.

Saturday, we’ll meet at 10am (CDT) ready to shuttle from the Cornell Bridge put-in near Valentine, down to the Smith Falls State Park campground and beach the canoes, and then start from there again on Sunday.   If you are not camping, but meeting us in the morning, see the note, below for directions.

Saturday evening – optional potluck dinner at one of the convenient campsites.  There is a large group shelter generally available in case of rain.

Sunday, we’ll meet near the boat ramp (where we took out on Saturday) at 10am (CDT) ready to shuttle from the campground to the take-out – probably at Sunny Brook Camp, about a mile upstream of Rocky Ford.  The shuttle takes over an hour, so non-drivers should plan to relax, hike to Smith Falls, and/or birdwatch at the campground while the drivers are driving. We will verify the 10am shuttle start on Saturday night.

Sunday evening: Informal group happy hour possible, but no specific group activity planned.  Some of us will be checking out (i.e., scouting, not running) the Norden chute and going to the The Nature Conservancy Niobrara Valley Preserve near there) (https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/nebraska/placesweprotect/niobrara-valley-preserve.xml 


The campground at Smith Falls State Park doesn’t open until early May  and there is no official group site.   We used to have the campground to ourselves but in recent years, its gotten more crowded. The campground was reconfigured for 2021, adding more sites and mixing the use between tents and RVs in all sites. You can make reservations now – here’s the link to the on-line camping reservations  https://nebraskastateparks.reserveamerica.com

You can also call the park for reservations ( (402) 376-1306) but your best bet is on-line. The camping cost is $15/day/site plus a day use fee.

Note: Directions to Cornell Bridge from Valentine:  Take Nebraska 12 east about 4 miles to the Ft Niobrara Wildlife refuge turn-off. Turn right towards the river and then make the first right into the access parking lot. Be there by 10 am ready to shuttle and be sure to purchase your $1 wrist-band at the kiosk

Contact Bill Ashworth (washwort@gmail.com) to register for the trip if you didn’t sign up via the Planning and Permit survey


May 24
May 27
Event Category:


Valentine, NE
Valentine, NE United States


Bill Ashworth
washwort at gmail.com