This 76-mile reach of the Niobrara River in north central Nebraska was added to the nation's Wild and Scenic River System in 1991. The river is swift and shallow over much of its length, cutting through bedrock forming riffles, rapids and waterfalls. The Scenic River preserves a superb example of a Great Plains river and protects a unique ecological crossroads where six distinct ecosystems and their associated flora and fauna mix, some at or beyond their normal geographic limit.
The western third of the Scenic River is home to over two hundred waterfalls -- highest is Smith Falls that plunges sixty-three feet over a sandstone cliff.
Many locally-owned ranches are found along the river retaining the valley's rural flavor, yet much of its wild character is preserved. Wildlife abounds: animals such as white-tailed deer, coyote, beaver, mink, bull snakes, soft-shelled turtles, turkeys, herons, and sandpipers are commonly sighted.
Enjoyed by tens of thousands of canoeists yearly, the upper reach of the Niobrara is noted as one of the country's outstanding canoeing rivers. A portion flows through a federally designated wilderness.