Friday, July 12, 2013

The Sandhills

Yesterday we traveled on the "Bridges to Buttes" highway.  Today we found out why it was called that. Every few miles on the Niobarara River there is a one lane bridge.  The Sandhills "is a voyage beyond the wonders of the seven seas that can only be found in Nebraska's sea of grass in the strange and spectacular Sandhills.  Scientists see it as the largest mass of sand dunes in the Western Hemisphere."  

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest is mostly grass and only 5,000 acres are wooded the other 110,000 acres are Sandhill prairie.  

Our travels took us over the Niobrara River to the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge.   First stop was the visitor center where they had a huge bison on display. 
Fort Niobrara was a frontier fort between 1879 to 1906 and was used as a cavalry remount station until 1911. 

Of course we decided to start small with our wildlife spotting.

And then the animals got bigger.  
This guy was at the car window wanting to be petted.  Then he decided he wanted to investigate what we had in the bed of the truck.  This was taken out my window with no magnification.  

We saw about 15 bison on the hill but it was too far to get a good photo and many were lying down cooling off. 

It was 97 degrees with humidity but we didn't let that stop us from taking a hike to Fort Falls.  As soon as we started down in the valley it cooled off.  The trail was well done and had a lot of steps.
As we got closer you could hear the falls.  Unfortunately photos just can't capture everything.  I put my feet in the water and you can't believe how cool it was.  
The beauty of the place was that we had it all to ourselves.

We continued hiking past the falls and came out on the Niobrara River.  

 I tried talking Bill into taking a canoe ride as there were many liveries in the area but we didn't get started early enough to do it. 
I think if we'd have looked at the river earlier we might have done it.  The one we took in Loundonville, Ohio was a mass of people on the river and this was much nicer.  The Niobrara River is the second faster river in Nebraska and has been named one of the top 10 canoeing rivers in the United States.  It takes 7 and half hours to travel the 31 mile trip. 

We drove on the "Outlaw Trail" up to the next bridge.  Once you get off Highway 12 (Outlaw Trail) it turns to dirt again. We found all of the recreational roads are dirt and they are very narrow, but we didn't have to worry about meeting someone coming the other way because we had the road all to ourselves.  

As we came back into Valentine we noticed that all the street signs are done in red with a heart on all of them.  There's a huge red heart painted on the street.  

We stopped at the local supermarket before heading back home to cool off.  

Does anyone have any suggestions of things to see in Nebraska?  We aren't scheduled (what an ugly word) to be in Pine Grove until the 23rd. 

Turtle Safely........

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