canoeing on the Niobrara River – Sparks Nebraska

I may not walk straight for awhile and my knees, arms, shoulders and back ache after canoeing Nebraska’s premier river, the Niobrara for 7 hours. We put in at Cornell Bridge, passed the famous Smith Falls State Park (home of Nebraska’s highest falls – not Ithaca but still lovely) and ended at the cabinand outfitters where we are staying, SunnyBrook camp. The river was peaceful in most parts but we had to navigate some rocky rapids and got stuck on some sandbars and rocks. The weather began chilly, about 59, and gradually the sun won its battle with clouds and we think smoke from the western fires. The temps were in the low 70s, but lots of vigorous wind. I don’t think I can canoe without a seat back any more and sadly, the outfitter told me, way after the fact, that he had a seat Back I could have used. Next time we may try a double kayak. We were envious of their seats.

But we did have the river almost entirely to ourselves which was great. Wepassed through grassy banks of the sand hills and high soft stone bluffs dotted with red vegetation. Not too much wildlife. Some ducks took flight. A snake slithered past on the muddy bank. We spotted an elegant blue-gray heron.

Cabin porch view
Nebraska’s highest falls!

It was great canoeing right up to our rustic cabin, the only one we saw right on the banks, at a gorgeous bend in the river. At 7 a.m. fog and mist were rising off the river. It looked very mysterious. The cabin is huge and very comfortable. There is a second bedroom with bunk beds and a double bed. It’s all knotty pine, with a huge open living room, full kitchen (but no plates, cups, utensils which apparently is a Covid preventive measure the owners forgot to mention…fortunately we had some paper and plastic stuff.) There is a big stuffed deer’s head on the wall, lots of wood antlers to use for hanging wet clothes. The best part is the rustic wrap around porch with a rocking chair I melted into after canoeing and old rusted metal chairs. Apparently this is a former dance hall from the early 1900s that was moved here in 1980.

mysterious morning in the cabin

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