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Primitive Camping in Nebraska

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If you say that title phrase to most anyone in the US, the vision of most would probably include a tent pitched somewhere in the middle of a corn field. For those outside the US, Nebraska is in the mid-west of the US, smack dab in the middle of the country, and is famous for being a farm state, and specifically for growing corn.
Ironically enough, I live in Omaha Nebraska which as it stands has about 1.5 million people in it, and is about as "cityfied" as any city in the midwest. We rarely see any animals other than the basic rabbits or squirrels. Mostly concrete and buildings, just like any city.
The SWMBO and I love to camp primitive style (no water hookups, no electricity, no hotel or camper or RV, just a tent and every and anything you would need to survive with you, to an extent) so we took off out of town for a couple of days for some off grid camping to test some newly acquired camping gear.
This time around we chose to head up to a little park in northern Nebraska, called Niobrara state park. Its quite small compared to some of the main larger parks in the US, but its extremely hilly, and the views are really excellent, with loads, and loads of opportunities to see some wild life.
This was just a beginning of summer solstice trip and we wanted to test some gear, so we only stayed Thurs, Fri and Sat. The list of wildlife alone we saw just in the few days in the park was quite stunning.
- turtles
- frogs
- snakes
- turkeys
- turkeys with babies in tow
- flying  turkeys (more gliding than actual flying)
- muskrat
- whitetail dear

- Sandhill cranes
- red fox
- an entire colony of bees on the move at once (right through our camp site!)
- cows (of course its Nebraska)
- horses
- giant hornets
- bubble bees
- butterflies of all varieties
- a colony of Starlings
- 3 or 4 pairs of Golden Eagles on the hunt (they rode thermals and rarely flapped a wing, and we thought they were Hawks at first)
- that same colony of Starlings attacking the pairs of red tailed hawks
And in the category of UNWANTED wildlife, some big a$$ ticks. Those were not too bad, as they were only in some specific spots where the park personnel couldn't mow. With all of the massive amount of rain the park had, they were not able to mow some of the trails as much, and we ended up having to move out of our first camp spot because of them. 
We also had a crop duster that did many MANY surveying passes over the park really low, and caught some great shots of him flying over head. 
I took my Nikon D3400 DSLR, but I'm no photography expert, but did catch some interesting shots, including some shots of the deer, hawks and some shots of two hawks with tiny Starlings dive bombing them.
I know it may be a bit much, and I realize some of the shots could be way better, but since each post only allows 10 pics, please bare with me.  I didnt get a shot of ALL the animals we saw, but quite a few of them. 
We ended up camping on the 2nd highest hill/spot in the park, with a grand view of not only the Niobrara river, but also the whole valley across the Missouri into the neighboring state of South Dakota.
The view from our tent in the mornings:
The walking path mowed into the hillside for hiking:
Some interesting flowers right outside our tent. These "fiber optic" looking flower heads (known as "sensitive brier")  had leaves that would curl up and close with the slightest touch:
Giant bumble bees covered in pollen and some colorful butterflies outside our tent in the mornings:

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Here is a better overall view of our camp site w/the unusual bonus of a sheltered picnic table area:






The park had a one way small drive around all of it with a couple of parking places for each, and it still seemed very isolated, even with a bit of concrete breaking up nature. SWMBO out taking macro shots of some of teh flowers:






A shot of the east side of the Niobrara river valley with the water cresting VERY high, nearly to the wooden walk bridge out over it off in the distance:








A view of our camp site from about 3.5 - 4 miles on the other side of the tiny park:








On the completely opposite side of the park from the primitive camping areas, were their cabins. These had screened in decks, picnic and grilling areas with full electricity, A/C, heat, full kitchen and bath as well as satellite TV.

The ones the SWMBO and I want to rent for the Christmas holiday overlook the crest of the Missouri river valley into South Dakota and beyond:










STILL MORE..............








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Here is a small view of what some of the interior cabins looked liked from the primitive area. These were not set on the edge of the river valley, but were still very picturesque:
What we thought was a mass of white dried out drift wood (because they weren't moving much at all at the time) turned out to be a mass of white sand hill cranes frolicking on the sand bar:
Some of the cabins had a grand view of little scenic estuaries off of the big Mo:




In the spring the park had cut down large amounts of non-native invasive cedar trees, and piled them up in massive piles around the park, and they did distract from the views, but not too much. The white tail loved to come out near dusk, using these piles as cover, but I managed to get  a couple snaps of them, even as wary as they are:










Walking along the main one way path, we saw SO many long ears around it was insane:








Niobrara also had a complete stable and hoarseback riding program. The hoarsies had a LOT of picturesque beauty to roam in:










EVEN MORE....................



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The riding program was cool, and seemed to go from beginning riders up through experienced ones. The horse trails, like the hiking trails roamed all throughout the park:






The second morning a whole group of riders passed our camp site with the lead girl charging ahead on her steed to block "traffic" (usually about 1 or 2 cars pass on the road every couple of hours, or less) on the small one way road while the rest of her party passed on the crossing. Some of the horses had more than blinders on, and looked like their vision was nearly fully curtailed:














The second to last, and last day we were their, I had heard a light plane above us several times but was never in a position to see him. Finally on the last day, I heard him coming over again, and had my DSLR ready. What I thought was an Ag-Cat or similar was in reality after looking at this last pic, turned out to be a 1968-69 Piper Pawnee.  I zoomed in SUPER far on this last pick and could see everything from the crop dusting spray nozzles, to the springs on his tail wheel, to the writing on his cowl in red that says "Piper Pawnee 235":











EVEN MORE STILL..................


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Gorgeous country................. almost half expected to see Buffalo Bill riding along, very majestic....... I love it down that way... took our Corvette on a road trip almost there a few years ago, would love to do it again, lots of history there, thanks for sharing...... I loved it...

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Now to the best stuff..................IMHO anyway. Nature in all its glory can be spectacular in SO many ways. The park has a large population of eagles (although we thought they were hawks at first)  and having at first thought they were Red Tail hawks, now that I went back and looked at them they now appear to be Golden Eagles. They ALWAYS flew in pairs sometimes 2 or even 3 pairs of them riding thurmals all day long, barely flapping a wing.








There was also a VERY large population of extremely agile Starlings at the park, and they did not appreciate the Eagles presence what so ever. Like a bomber in a left hand bank with a fighter screaming down from 6 O clock high, the starlings would attack the Eagles whenever they got even remotely near the trees they had nests in:






The underside of the Eagles was very beautiful, and occasionally I could get a shot of their underbellys that wasnt completely in shadow:








They were utterly AMAZING to watch their acrobatics in the sky, dancing, darting to avoid the Starlings, craning their necks each way to scan for meeces and occasionally tucking their wings and diving several hundred feet in a few seconds to catch a mouse in a field. Really wish I would have gotten that on film:











Its not the most clear of pics but right at the end of one of these aerial dances between a set of starlings and a pair of Eagles, I just happened to get lucky, and not only catch one of the eagles right above me swooping down over us, but caught his mate about 200 or more feet above with a Starling diving on it:






It was a great trip, and happy I could share some pics. Hope you enjoyed! 


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Been through Nebraska a few times. I was living in Elk Point, SD for a bit, and headed across NE coming and going from California. It's beautiful country out there.

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Guest Peterpools


Thanks so much for sharing your trip and photography: I am truly jealous! I'm very big into photography and I only get one 10 day trip a year with the Chief to our favorite place: Acadia National Park, Maine. Of course, we don't rough it as much (camping out at the Hilton) but once out in the park and Mt Dessert Island, nature at her finest. For the rest of the year, it's one or two day shoots at best.


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Posted (edited)

And I always thought Nebraska was flat from boarder to boarder.  :innocent:  


I remember when I used to love primitive camping.  Especially as a kid in the Scouts.  About the time my youngest boy was half way to his Eagle, I gave it up and let him go without me.  1) I felt that I was "crowding" him too much and I didn't want to be perceived as a "Helicopter parent" since that is why most Dad's went along.  And 2), I just lost the appeal.  Roughing it for me now is not having a happy hour available at the Hotel bar or someone forgot to replenish the coffee for the room coffee maker.  At 55, I'm just too old for this lifestyle.  Especially the 2-3 trips per night to the bathroom.  No way I'm climbing out of a tent and walking to the privy in the middle of the night these days.


Oh man, the funny story I could tell about "night time bathroom trips" on one of the Scouting camp outs.   :rofl:

Edited by ScottsGT

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Thanks gents!  It was very fun trip, but the park is pretty "nature based" and has to be dealt with accordingly.   I really loved seeing the Eagles, as around here even bald Eagles with their readily identifiable white head and white tails are easily seen, even around some of the city parks. They have really made a great come back in numbers.


Golden Eagles however, seem to be much more rare. It seems Niobrara is the perfect habitat for them, as it has a convergence of two fairly large rivers, miles and miles of open sand bars, and acres and acres of open range fields for them to hunt meeces in. 

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