The Niobrara River, two national wildlife refuges and world-class golf destinations bring adventure-seeking visitors from around the world to the Nebraska Sandhills and Valentine.
The Niobrara River winds through tree-filled canyons of Cherry County near Valentine. Canoeists and kayakers prove their paddling prowess through or around rapids and rocks. Inner-tube floaters leisurely let the river do the work and often stop to enjoy waterfalls. A 76-mile stretch of the river is designated as a National Scenic River and managed by the National Park Service. In addition to scenic views, the Niobrara is known for refreshing spring-fed flows, close-up wildlife views and memorable experiences. Bring your own boat, or rely on one of many local outfitters for transportation to launch places and kayak, canoe or inner tube rental. (402) 376-2969.
Snake River Falls rushes over a 54-foot-wide Snake River ledge. This waterfall is Nebraska’s largest by volume. A short hike through private land leads visitors to an overlook showing the falls thundering below. To get to Snake River Falls take Highway 97 south of Valentine for 23 miles. (402) 376-2969.
The nearly 3,000 acres of sky-blue Merritt Reservoir water surrounded by sand hills is a scenic sight to behold in this remote location 26 miles southwest of Valentine. Wide white sand beaches attract families for beach volleyball, sunbathing and other fun in the sun. Camping and fishing are permitted. (402) 376-2320.
Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge began as a military post. Its mission today is preserving wildlife habitat. A driving tour reveals prairie dogs, burrowing owls and other animals. Watch for bison cooling off in the pond, or hike the trail to Fort Falls. The refuge’s visitor center has exhibits explaining military history and how six ecosystems meet here, and displays ancient fossils. Located five miles east of Valentine on Highway 12. (402) 376-3789.
Valentine National Wildlife Refuge protects 72,000 acres of the Nebraska sand hills. Grass-covered sand dunes rise over marsh-filled valleys. The refuge allows limited hunting. Some lakes are open to anglers seeking largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch and bluegill. Observing wildlife in this nearly pristine landscape is the most popular pursuit here. (402) 376-1889.
Several challenging and stunning golf courses are within a short drive of Valentine. Two 18-hole courses and a 10-hole course can be found at The Prairie Club 20 miles southwest of Valentine. The natural lay of the land in this remote location is golf in its purist form and makes this a world-class destination. Luxury lodging and gourmet meals soften the sting of errant swings. (877) 500-1698.
Frederick Peak Golf Club is a new public course. Ten holes wind through scenic ridges, small canyons are golf greens in the shadow of the chalky pointed Frederick Peak. 1000 Dowden St. (402) 376-2323.
The Cherry County Historical Society Museum dedicates exhibits to the history of ranching, the military, American Indians and pioneers. Main Street and Highway 20. (402) 376-2015. The Centennial Hall Museum building, erected in 1897, is the oldest standing high school building in Nebraska. Third and Macomb streets. (402) 376-1455.
Learn more about Valentine by contacting the Cherry County Visitor and Promotion Board at visitvalentine.org or (402) 376-2969.