One of the best things about Nebraska is the state park system. The $17 for a year pass is worth it and quickly pays for itself. So, when Al and I decided that we had to get out of town for the 4th of July because they are just firecracker-crazy in this place, we decided the only safe place was a state park because they actually enforce the “no fireworks” law.
We actually found an opening at Niobrara State Park (NSP) in northeast Nebraska, but only because the 4th is on a week day—otherwise they are booked for every weekend. The park is situated on an expansive 1,260 acres at the “T” of the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, on the Lewis and Clark Trail. I think it’s the largest park in the state, and if it’s not, it’s still pretty darn big.
It was only about 4 hours northeast of us. We got everything loaded into the Mazda Miata and took off! Part of the fun of a trip is getting there, especially in a Miata. We went through many small towns, and I do mean small. Many were less than 100 people. Each town had a grain elevator, an auto body shop, a gas station, and usually a church, and as quickly as we drove into the town, we drove right out again. The most prevalent scenery was the acres of cornfields and soy beans. There was also the wonderful floral smell of lavender! Acres and acres of lavender, which is good because it helped cover up the aroma of feed lots, which were also prevalent. The further north we got, cornfields of the flat prairie gave way to rolling mountains with round bales of hay interspersed with grazing cattle. The sun was shining and it was just starting to get hot when we pulled into the park.
They have RV pads and tent sites, but we stayed in one of the 2-bedroom cabins, the Blackbird.
They have 19 cabins at NSP, 12 are two-bedrooms and 7 are three-bedrooms. They also rent out a group lodge, which accommodates 110 people and would be great for retreats and family reunions. All the cabins are well equipped with place settings for 8, pots and pans, a pitcher, microwave, stove, refrigerator, and the all-important coffee maker. They even had coffee filters! What a great place! Each cabin has a screened-in back porch with a grill and picnic table out back. What they didn’t have was a TV or a phone. And the only radio was a small radio alarm clock. Heaven! We didn’t bring a computer, and we couldn’t get a strong enough signal on the cell phone, which means that even though Al forwarded our home phone to the cell phone (why would he do that? I don’t know), we didn’t get any calls. I was almost giddy. Now, obviously, if I really wanted to rough it we would have actually been camping. But I’m too old to sleep on the ground, and although I reveled in not fixing my hair or wearing make-up, I did like my indoor, spacious bathroom with a shower that had the water pressure of a fire hose.
Here was the only downfall to the cabin:
It looks like a dentist’s waiting room, but it’s really the family room. So, although I envisioned sitting and reading and knitting in a big comfy chair, that wasn’t meant to be. But we made due. I still got a lot of knitting done, and I read one of the two books I brought. I wanted to start with The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr, but I decided it was going to take a little more concentration than I wanted to give it. Carr is a great writer, but this book is a Sherlock Holmes story, written from Dr. Watson’s point of view in Victorian England, so it’ll take a little more focus. So, I read Now You See Her by Cecelia Tishy, a “cozy” mystery set in Boston. I’ll actually write about it in another post.
Although the only thing I was really interested in was reading and strolling around the trails, the park did offer activities for those who have a hard time being still. That would be my husband, by the way. He was telling me the activity choices from the information brochures, conveniently organized in a binder on the table. Horseback riding, hiking trails, swimming, and guided motorized raft tours on the Missouri River all at our disposal. But it was late in the afternoon, and all we really wanted to do was jump in the pool and cool off.
But let me tell ya about this pool. Sorry I don’t have a photo, but it looks like a pool. It costs $3.50 to get in, and once you’re in, they require that you shower first. Also, they don’t allow shoes in the pool area—any shoes. So, yes, you burn your feet as you walk around. Also, there are no lounge chairs. No chairs of any kind! The only chairs are the Lifeguard stations. Luckily, the pool was still worth it. That was the cleanest swimming pool I have ever been in! And cold! We wanted to cool off, and it worked. We stayed for an hour and a half, but the kids had gotten bored of jumping off the diving board and were heading into the more shallow end where we were. It was a sign that we should head back to the cabin.
Back to the cabin and eat! We brought grillin’ food with us. There is a family-owned market just a couple of miles down the road in the town of Niobrara where we picked up the things we forgot, but we brought most of the stuff we’d need. Unlike other vacations, this one was not all about the food. We didn’t go out to eat at all, preferring to grill something and sit out on the back porch.
After we ate, we went for a walk. Dusk was just beginning, my favorite time of day. Here are some of the photos.
View from behind our cabin:
View from across the street of our cabin:
Missouri River at Sunset:
Well, that’s enough for Part I. Next, I’ll post some more photos and information about the area.