State and national park gems in Nebraska

By Stef Zisovska
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Nebraska is a state that never shows up first on the search engines when you look for National Parks with great examples of natural beauty. However, this state is in fact full of stunning places to see that you won’t find anywhere else in the country. Many of Nebraska’s natural gems are off the beaten path so probably that’s why you never hear a lot about them. The truth is that the Cornhusker state contains an amazing diversity of breathtaking landscapes that you will love to see. Here’s a list of state and national park gems in Nebraska to visit this season.

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

An aerial photo of University and Carnegie hills

Near Harrison, in Nebraska, you must visit Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. The main features of the monument are the fossils found on Carnegie Hill and University Hill and the valley of the Niobrara River. This popular site is known for the numerous Miocene fossils that are more than 20 million years old. They are some of the best fossils of Miocene mammals in the world. The species found here include Miohippus (the ancestor of the today’s horse), Amphycion (the bear dog), Daeodon (a giant pig-like ungulate), and Moropus (a relative of the rhino). The whole area of the monument mainly consists of grass plains full of blue grama, needle and thread grass, and western wallflower.

Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake State Recreational Area is a favorite fishing spot for the local people. The lake is located near Lexington and it covers 2,068 acres. The main attractions Johnson Lake offers are great boating and skiing and excellent angling for a variety of fish, including walleye, white bass, and wipers. Johnson Lake also offers amazing camping possibilities that include electrical hookups, non-pad sites, showers, modern restrooms, dump station, water, picnic tables, grills, shelters, vault toilets, and boat ramps.

Pine Ridge National Recreational Area

The Pine Ridge region has forested hills – Author: Spencer – CC BY-SA 2.5

In northwest Nebraska, you can find the Pine Ridge Region that contains the recreational area of 6,600 acres where you can go camping, hiking, and mountain biking. Motorized vehicles are not permitted, camping grounds are available year-round at the cost of $5 from mid-May to mid-November. There are also various hiking possibilities in the area suitable for hikers of all levels.

Snake River Falls

Snake River Falls

Snake River Falls is one of the best attractions you can visit in Nebraska. Located 20 miles southwest of Valentine, Snake River Falls is known to be the waterfall with the greatest volume in the state of Nebraska. Though it’s not the tallest, it’s definitely the widest water waterfall in the state. When the water doesn’t reach its full potential, Snake River Falls is a nice fishing spot, but when there is a lot of rain and snowmelt, it’s not possible to do fishing activities.

Nebraska National Forest

The Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest, near Halsey, Nebraska, is the largest planted forest in the United States

The total area of Nebraska National Forest is 141,864 acres. The Bessey Ranger District in the Sandhills, Central Nebraska, was a part of a project initiated by Charles. E. Bessey in 1902 and it represents the largest planted forest in the US. The other part of the national forest is the Pine Ridge Region, the home of the native ponderosa. Nebraska National Forest lies in parts of Thomas, Dawes, Blaine, and Sioux counties.

Now you know that there are plenty of beautiful things to see and do in Nebraska. Maybe you don’t hear about it that often, but they do exist. Whenever you have a chance, come and visit this marvelous state and the National Park gems hidden in the stunning landscapes of Nebraska. If you don’t live anywhere near, then just start planning a trip for this spring or summer and make sure you bring some good company with you. Enjoy and good luck!

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