Friday, July 31, 2015

Merritt Reservoir

The Merritt Reservoir is an impoundment of the Snake River.

 Merritt Reservoir

The Merritt Reservoir is 11 miles long and has 44 miles of sandy and treed beaches.  The water is great for cooling off,  water skiiing, swimming or whatever water play you have in mind.  It's also great for just relaxing on a pontoon or a  paddle boat.   However, mostly what we saw today was fisherman in all kinds of boats.  We learned that the Walleye is normally what these fisherman come here to catch. 

 Western Grebes

This isn't the best picture of these grebes but it is the first time that we have seen this type of grebe so we were excited to get a picture of them at all.  We were just too far away to get a good picture!

Lee took this parorama of the lake but it made 
this straight beach line look curved.  

 The Sandhills

The Sandhills of Nebraska cover the north central portion of Nebraska and extend north and northwest into South Dakota.  These Sandhills cover 19,600 square miles and are the largest sand dune formations in America.

One of the largest aquifers in North America lies beneath these Sandhills.  It is called the Ogallala Aquifer.  This aquifer covers 174,000 square miles in portions of eight states.  The Ogallala Aquifer has a storage capacity about equal to that of Lake Huran.  It is the most important source of water in the high plains Region providing nearly all the water for residential, industrial and agricultural use.  Irrigation currently accounts for 90% of the water use from the Aquifer.

In this picture you can see the irrigation canal that runs along Highway 97 and is taken from the reservoir to supply water for their crops to farmers over 70 miles away.  

Snake River Falls

If you ever decide to take a trip to Snake River Falls, stop at the Tourist Office in Valentine and get directions first.  We didn't and so we drove past it on Highway 97 south of Valentine.  We turned around because we figured surely something that is advertised in their tourist brochure would have a sign.  However, we were wrong.  We passed it again.  Our new GPS didn't have it listed as an attraction but after passing by it again, I pulled out our old GPS  It had it listed and we found the turn easily.  

The problem is that the waterfall is on private land so the state removed the sign to it and the owners of the land haven't seen fit to put up a sign.  They do, however, collect a $1 fee per person to walk through their yard to see it.  They don't do much to maintain a nice path to it either.  However, you don't have to traverse the rough heavily rutted terrain to see the falls.  We just stayed on the ridge overlooking the falls because walking all the way down to the falls looked like an accident waiting to happen!

The waterfall was well worth all the confusion, however, so if you are in the area on Highway 97 leaving Valentine, turn right on the gravel driveway next to a large stock tank!

Snake River Falls is immediately to the north of Merritt Reservoir.  It is the largest waterfall when measured by volume in the state of Nebraska.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge

Our next stop today was the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge.  The roads here weren't terrific either but not nearly as bad as what we experienced at Smith Falls State Park and, actually, you'd expect a wildlife refuge to have gravel roads.

These first pictures that we took were on two different scenic overlooks as you enter the park.

The first pictures we

Then we headed to the Visitor Center and Lee got a road map to follow through the refuge.  It wasn't the easiest thing to follow but we managed to get around.  The temperatures were high in the 90's by the time we arrived here.  We were afraid all of the animals would be laying down in tall grass and we'd never see them.  We didn't see many, but we did find some.

There is a large Prairie Dog City just as you start the journey into the refuge.  They are sure cute but I wouldn't want them in my yard!

Tall Prairie Grasses

I loved some of the wild flowers!

I'm wondering if you can rent a horse for a ride in the refuge.  Don't really know.  They weren't exactly the kind of animals we were looking for, but they are beautiful.

The cloud formations today were just awesome!

As we were getting toward the end of the refuge roads, we finally found some bison.

Another view of the Niobrara River

Since it was getting so hot outside, we decided it was time to eat and we headed to the Bunk House Cafe in Valentine.   Lee had a reuben and fries and I had a cup of beef noodle soup and a BLT.  The sandwiches were passable but the soup was really good.  Their pies look wonderful too so we may have to stop by again.

Then we headed back to the campground to work on this blog!