Niobrara Valley Preserve

Open to the Public


Things To Do

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Plan Your Visit

Email the Preserve at or call (402) 722-4440. View All

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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.


Brown, Cherry and Keya Paha counties


56,000 acres

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. Scientific research and education are essential at the Niobrara Valley Preserve.  

“The Niobrara Valley Preserve is a flagship project for The Nature Conservancy and one of our largest preserves worldwide. The ground-breaking work in grassland management forged at the NVP has helped inform our prairie conservation efforts throughout the Great Plains and as far away as Brazil's Pantanal.”

Steve McCormick, former president/CEO, The Nature Conservancy


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.

From Ainsworth, drive west 10 miles on U.S Highway 20, then 16 miles north on the country road towards Norden.

Download a map of the preserve location (PDF, 80 KB).


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

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Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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