🤠 More of The Good Life

RV Crossing Missouri River into Nebraska
From the moment we crossed over the Missouri River from South Dakota into Niobrara we were in awe. The Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge is a sight all its own. For a moment, if we didn’t know where we were, we wouldn’t have known where we were. Ha! (makes sense, right?) The river bluffs staring at us were incredible and the wetlands below are something we’re used to seeing here in Florida, not in Nebraska. We believe, once again, television viewers are going to be shocked by the topography and countryside.

Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
Niobrara State Park is a slice of heaven just over the bridge. Our campsite sat overlooking the river with the bridge behind us and that is what we walked out to every morning. Not bad at all!! Once we ventured out to explore the rest of the park, I don’t believe we actually spoke in full sentences anymore, just “wows!” and “whoas!” There really isn’t a bad view anywhere. The rivers below, the bluffs all around us and then the wildlife, simply spectacular.

Niobrara State Park Sunset

We hiked up to the cabins to interview Superintendent Cogan Thompson that evening. Cogan should be very proud of the staff and park he has there. They take pride in everything they do, and it shows. We wrapped the interview and stayed for the sunset (in a spot Superintendent Cogan recommended). The breeze was strong, but so were the colors. Sitting up on a ledge, watching the sun go down over the water, it’s hard to imagine anything else exists outside of this moment.

Horseback Riding in Niobrara, Nebraska

Sunrise the next day was equally as splendid, but this time, we had horses!! What a wonderful experience. Head Wrangler, Kelly and her team were gracious, knowledgeable, and patient. This was Kevin’s first time on a horse, ever, and he was a natural. No surprise though, The Cocoa Beach Kid is good at everything and sitting in the saddle was no exception. Once again, I can see why Kelly and her wranglers love what they do and where they do it. (This day was probably the highlight of my trip . . . spending sunrise on horseback. Everyone needs to try this!) As if our day could get any better, it did. Cogan had reached out to a couple of local historians and members of the Ponca tribe to join us for dinner at camp. What an honor it was to serve them as they share history, stories of growing up in Niobrara and their love of this area.

Niobrara Campfire Dinner

Day 3 – we head to Smith Falls State Park to meet Superintendent Amy Kucera. What a hidden gem she’s got on her hands! Drive up, walk into welcome center, and back out to the deck that hides a glimpse of the river below. It’s nice, completely unassuming, and I found myself, saying to myself, “so what’s this place all about?” Wait for it . . .

Smith Falls State Park

Amy suggests a beautiful spot in the campground for her interview. It’s got the bridge right over her shoulder with the river to her right. She’s got a great eye, and no doubt loves this place very much. She shared a lot of the history and what to look for with us, and then we couldn’t get hiking on the Falls trail fast enough. Crossing the bridge with tubers and kayakers passing underneath us was fun! Next time we come back, we shall float! We make it to the Falls and oh my word!! It’s gorgeous, the temperature immediately changes the closer you get to it, and there’s the hint of spray in the air. It gets louder and louder, and then it’s there! The water tumbling over the edge above is beautiful. Then the plunge happens. It was a hot July afternoon, so the refreshing, pummeling water was very welcome. We had to bribe Kevin with lunch to get him out of the Falls, otherwise I believe he would have stayed all day. Ha! We all left there with big smiles on our faces. What a hidden gem indeed. What a treat!

Cowboy Trail in Valentine, Nebraska

The Cowboy Trail bridge over the Niobrara was our cap to the day and that in no way disappointed! The bridge itself is gorgeous! The vistas on both sides, gorgeous. The overlooks spaced out along the bridge, gorgeous. Riding our bikes back and forth, amazing.

I must admit, I was sad to leave. We had to get back home to start editing and get ready for our next trips, but this one really hit me that I had to leave. I was homesick for Nebraska before we even pulled out of camp. I drive away with a sense of pride, joy, and thanks. I immediately call my Mother to thank her (and my Dad) for raising us in Nebraska and for giving us such firm roots in The Good Life.

On behalf of Kevin, myself, and the entire crew . . . we'd like to thank Nebraska Game & Parks for the warm welcome, hospitality, and incredible experiences!! I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for the opportunity to explore, learn, and ultimately share the natural beauty and rich history that is my home state of Nebraska. Thank you. Click the link below to watch the "Niobrara" episode.