NIOBRARA, Neb.- Nebraska is known for its many rivers, and on the state's northern border, you'll find the confluence of the Missouri and the Niobrara.
Some experts say the Missouri River west of this confluence looks a little more like what Lewis and Clark might have seen in the early 1800's. Mark Rettig took us on a boat ride on the Missouri River to see it up close.
"It's a spiritual river out here at times," Retting said. "You get out here and you are in with mother nature, you feel the power of the river, you know the power of the river. There's not a lot of channelization on this section of the Missouri River, and that's what makes this part of the river so special.
As we discovered, this part of the river appears more untouched, and it's certainly a land filled with history. Native Americans once called the area home. "Across the river was the land of the Sioux," Rettig said. "This side of the river was the land of the Ponca tribe. The Sioux tribe was more of a warrior society on that side of the river, the Ponca was more of a farming community."
When Lewis and Clark came up the river, they actually camped at the mouth of the Niobrara. Even General George Custer came through the area, on the side that is now present day South Dakota. "He and the 7th cavalry camped over there on the hills of South Dakota," Rettig said. "He wintered in South Dakota, picked up a steam ship that followed him all the way to Fort Lincoln in North Dakota, and from there the group went west to their demise."
But to truly appreciate this part of the Missouri, you have go get on it. That's why park superintendent Mark Rettig arranged for a boat tour. During our six mile trek up river we saw smooth water, and there were several eagle sightings. "I can say honestly within a 10 mile radius of Niobrara State Park we have 15 to 20 different nesting pairs of eagle's nests up here," Rettig said.
On our trip, we also saw cliff swallows making their nests along the bluffs of the Missouri. We caught a glimpse of this garter snake making its way across the river. And perhaps the most memorable part of the river tour? Seeing these beautiful bluffs along the water's edge. As we traveled back toward the boat dock and toward the nice cabins along the shore, it became clear why people enjoy coming here. It offers people a chance to slow down, recharge, and to get a sense of life in a more simpler time.