A view from a section of the 25 miles of the river abutted by the Preserve.
Niobrara Valley Preserve A view from a section of the 25 miles of the river abutted by the Preserve. © Chris Helzer/TNC

Places We Protect

Niobrara Valley Preserve

Nebraska

Explore the mosaic of prairies, forests, canyons, springs and riverfront that you've helped protect.

Why You Should Visit

The Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve is one of the largest Conservancy preserves in the U.S., and a model for grassland management using bison, cattle and fire. It encompasses majestic pine-clad canyons, extensive grasslands, and a 25-mile stretch of the Niobrara River. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the preserve year-round, and of special interest is the bison herd grazing in the vast open prairie.

Public Use Areas

Visitors are welcome to walk the new hiking trail west of the Preserve mailbox (foot traffic only, please). The trailhead includes a small parking area and information kiosk. You have your choice of the long loop or the short loop, both with grand views of the Niobrara River. You may enjoy the Norden chute at the Norden Bridge as well. Fishing is allowed with a Nebraska fishing permit. Please, no diving, camping or campfires.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program identified the Niobrara Valley Preserve as the biological crossroads of the Great Plains. To date, 581 plant, 213 bird, 86 lichen, 70 butterfly, 44 mammal, 25 fish, 17 reptile and 8 amphibian species have been recorded at the Preserve.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

The majority of the preserve was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 1980. First and foremost, the Conservancy’s mission in establishing the Niobrara Valley Preserve was to ensure that its conservation value would be protected for the long term. Secondly, it is operated as a working ranch. We lease grasslands for cattle grazing, two bison herds graze two large pastures, and we pay property taxes like any private landowner. The Niobrara Valley Preserve hosts a community of researchers, ranchers, students, and conservation professionals, working together on this world-class natural laboratory.

What to See: Plants

Big bluestem, little bluestem, buffalograss, indiangrass, junegrass, needleandthread grass, sand bluestem, sand lovegrass, hoary puccoon, leadplant, prickly poppy, shell-leaf penstemon, yucca, yellow lady slipper, wild begonia, paper birch, ponderosa pine, bur oak, American elm, eastern cottonwood. 

What to See: Animals

Bison, mule deer, bald eagles, Great Plains toad, ornate box turtle, many lined skink, American bittern, great blue heron, horned lark, belted kingfisher, ovenbird, upland sandpiper, whip-poor-will.