Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and The Cowboy Trail, Nebraska

When it was time to leave our northwest Nebraska location we knew that we were not done with this beautiful state.  So, after a long dirt road ride out of Toadstool Geologic Park, we hit the northern east-west highway toward the city of Valentine.

First up for this part of our journey was a tour through the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge.

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The Niobrara River flows through this land that was once a frontier military fort.

It was originally established as a preserved breeding ground for birds but shortly after became known as a refuge for elk and bison.

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But what we saw the most of was Prairie Dogs!

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Very Happy

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Well Fed

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Content Prairie Dogs!

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It was a lark sort of day with a sighting of a Meadowlark

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and a Horned Lark.

A neat looking tree on the prairie.

The more typical view.  We drove down a long road on the refuge searching for Bison.

This American Kestrel stayed just one fence post ahead of us most of the drive.

Near the end of our drive we finally spotted a herd.

Since one of the main purposes of this refuge is to provide a habitat for Bison we'll end this refuge tour with some facts about them from one of the signs.




As you can see, Bison are key to the health of the prairie.  It is for this reason that in the absence of Bison many refuges are turning to cattle grazing.

Although we always enjoy our time at Wildlife Refuges, our primary purpose for visiting Valentine was to pedal

the Cowboy Trail - Americas largest rails-to-trails conversion - 321 miles long.

Long early morning shadows... The Kids are ready to ride and so are we!

We were excited to ride the Cowboy Trail despite the fact that many reviews warned of goat heads by the hundreds - sometimes 100 in one tire.

We stocked up on tire puncture treatment and hit the trail anyway.

It was a super windy and cold morning but we bundled up, pedaled what we could and motored what we could not.

Not long after we started we reached this amazing landmark.

This is a 1/4 mile long trestle standing 150 feet above the Niobrara River.

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It is a beautiful structure and provides

commanding views of both the valley and the river.

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This is Sand Hill Country!

Our ride on this day had us heading east out of Valentine which brought us to the 'Welcome' sign.

This is beautiful country.

The strong winds persisted and brought about a shorter ride than we originally anticipated.

Still we were thrilled to get a chance to ride even a short section of this iconic rail-trail. 

And, our tires remained goat head free!


Meanwhile, in real time,  Annie was ready to roll a few days ago and so were we.  All is well and we have made it safely to the Sunshine State.