This summer, I enjoyed an amazing adventure with a group of friends in Valentine, NE, home to the Niobrara River. This area is the definition of a hidden gem.
We set off in the afternoon with nine adventurous souls and their tubes roped together. Our friend’s outdoorsy pup led the way.
The river itself was incredible. Shallow enough to walk knee-deep and sometimes shoulder-deep. It also passed by random waterfalls and beautifully colored cliffs that loomed silently as the current carried us past.
After lazily floating for some time, we arrived at our first waterfall. It was FREEZING! Brian and I were only able to stand under it for seven seconds, but one of our friends holds the endurance record at 30 seconds!
A couple hours and pre-packed sandwiches later, we made it to the big kahuna. Smith’s Falls is Nebraska’s largest waterfall at 63 feet high. It was just as cold as the first fall. The water is spring-fed and falls into a shaded ravine where explorers converge to gaze upward in awe.
After getting a picture under the roaring cascade at Smith’s Falls, we returned to the river and let the current lull us to sleep. Let me tell you, there is nothing more relaxing than napping on a gentle river, soaking up the sun’s warmth. Just look at how chill Brian is.
Eventually, we floated past another group of tubers who pointed us in the direction of a third waterfall. This was where our exploring spirits took over. Not only did we find the falls, but we climbed them and hiked down the stream. We were completely secluded, surrounded by a canopy of green and diffused sun.
We landed soon after this and returned to our campsite to gaze upon the river that we’d just conquered. But this time, we gazed upon it as explorers and waterfall chasers.