The Niobrara National Scenic River Headquarters Office (402) 376-1901 is located at 214 W. Highway 20 in Valentine, Nebraska. This office is open 8:30 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. seven days a week Memorial Day through Labor Day and 8:00 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. Monday - Friday the rest of the year. Two visitor centers (managed by other agencies) along the river offer visitor information and interpretive displays: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates a visitor center at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge that explains Fort Niobrara history, local wildlife, and refuge management. Several wayside exhibits addressing Scenic River use and safety are located at the Fort Niobrara launch site. The visitor center (402) 376-3789 is located 4 miles east of Valentine off of Hwy 12. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission operates Smith Falls State Park with a visitor center open from May through mid-September (402) 376-1306. It is located 15 miles east of Valentine on Hwy 12 and 4 miles south on a county gravel road. Niobrara Council : The Niobrara Council is a state-recognized organization dedicated to assist the National Park Service and other partners in managing the Niobrara River, coordinating development and carrying out a conservation easement program. The 16 member council has representatives from local, state and federal governments, local landowners, county commissioners, area industries and the environmental community. Their office is located on 280 N. Main Street in Valentine. Here you can find visitor information as well. They are generally open Monday-Friday from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. (402) 376-2793 http://www.niobraracouncil.org/ Public River Access & Trails : The western reach of the Scenic River has public access points at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Smith Falls State Park, and the Middle Niobrara Natural Resource District's Brewer Bridge landing. Nature trails are found at the refuge and state park. The Fort Niobrara Refuge also features a driving tour through elk and bison pastures as well as a prairie dog colony. The hike to Fort Falls is fairly short and provides a spectacular view. Seasons Most people visit the Niobrara National Scenic River from mid-May through mid-October. The primary season for paddling and floating occurs during June, July and August. During spring floating conditions, be prepared for variable or unsettled weather and higher water levels. Many migratory birds pass through the valley and nesting Canada geese are often encountered. June is generally a month of transition and by July temperatures can soar into the 90's and low 100's. The hot weather usually lasts through mid to late August. Fall brings cooler temperatures, brilliant leaf colors and clearer water. Winter floats are possible (using private equipment) if the river has not iced over. The Cornell Bridge to Smith Falls stretch is normally ice free for most of the winter.