20 July 2009

Visiting Previously Explored Northwest Nebraska

Departed from Lincoln and via the highways until getting to Thedford then took a route northward to the turn-off in southerly Cherry County, and beyond to past Merritt reservoir and dam. A smooth scenic travel from Brownlee passed horses below in the Wamaduze Valley, past a lake place or two and to the first regulatory sign for more than 20 miles of uninterrupted travel.

Beyond the sandhills prairie, especially at the reservoir, hillsides abound with cedars in apparent, endless growths. At Merritt reservoir, and on its west side for miles, invasive cedars grow upon most every hill that can be seen on several scenes from the route that is well established for visitors. Within some measly miles is the Forest Service place of grass of the dominant prairie with varieties so suitably found amongst Cherry county sandhills.

Merritt was a predominant point along the route. The dam place and reservoir have the same name for a place appreciated by some pelicans, gulls, and motor-boats of a myriad sort ply beyond where birds gathered by the dam. Then the special drive to the west to the campground along the creek notable for its cowsian name.

The campground at McKelvie Forest, managed by the official Forest Service, was lesser used at first but turned to a hearty condition for the weekend. One day one, there was an unexpected realization of the obvious echo qualities worked so finely, live as shown by calls of the local Mourning Doves.

More subtle were the nuthatches, of two types. First heard were the red-breasted sort with its signature note. House wrens were simply boisterous. About the campground, the notable differences indicated other sorts of summer sojourners in the planted forest among a sublime sea of grass.

Camping Abounds

The recreation condition was spread at the many places noted during the few days roving in places prevalent for northwest Nebraska, up in the middle Niobrara River region.

There were some more people in about five vehicles comprised 2-3 more of the numbered sites along Steer Creek.

[Confluence below Fort Falls, Niobrara River]

Past Valentine and the refuel scene, eventually the river's edge was available to get a view of the river channel and the water deemed so important to recreationists. Bunches of people in floatable craft were gathered below the Cornell Dam, brought in school buses, comprising groups of unknown origin going along the way for a float down the cool river.

Regular bunches, primarily associated with flotilla's of rafts, were making their way along the recreational trail of water.

Water-based recreations was underway along the Niobrara River beyond Fort Niobrara and further down the flow to where campgrounds haunts were filled with a weekend's bunch of visitors with the cars and colorful tents and assorted items needed a proper outdoor endeavor.

At Berry Bridge there were many floaters on the Saturday morning. There was no parking available in the private lot, but there was a shade tree still available on the east side of the county road.

Bridges were suitable for an overview of assorted events of a summer's weekend along a river finely suited to flow along in a floatable craft. Festive people were notable, often occurring in groups of rafts. Music was heard a time or two, as part of a group moving with the run of the water, unless a sandbar was a hinderance to movement.

Brewer's Bridge was busy and being used in several ways by recreationists along the scenic river.

Down the valley with its ample flow for the middle Niobrara, a flotilla was seen approaching. There was a dog providing the point position for one set of rafts. Many people were lounging upon the flotation devices. Two canoes were on the east side, and one towed an inflatable character of their sort. Another set was tied together, four aside.

Distinct combinations of crafts continued along on the water that included water-flows from recent storms of tornadic intensity over the west tributaries.

Floaters going past Brewer's Bridge on a Saturday.

Water-based recreation at Sunny Brook Camp.

Characters were out in abundance on a summer day with direct sun, hearty heat, easy weather for a sun-burn with some cool beverages nearby while floating along with a party of people along the running water of Niobrara places. A fine display of recreation along the scenic river was display in the multiple groups of people lounging along, as well as a bunch of gatherings at places suitable for egress. Local opportunities also provided a cool respite on a day with warm 80s weather.

Somewhere along the scenic river, a ranger(s) of the NPS were offering an "enhanced visitor experience through interpretive opportunities," according to the Valentine newspaper of this mid-July week. A ranger pickup - 4x4 model with a hefty type of engine - was parked at Brewer's Bridge.

Multitudes of Rafts and Music

Many river miles end at Sunny Brook. The place was busy with two teenagers packing up some of the floatation devices already used during Saturday.

Groups of floaters went past with varying amounts of recreational fervor. Some would wave in their unique manner. Comments were thrown out between the shore and water. Spirit was lots on display, indicated by the many different antics for having fun with a group of friends amongst a set of tubes lashed together to form a party of floatists.

Color and pageantry where on display. There were ample and varied sources for color on the brownish water going east. Tubes were the dominant part of the kaleidoscope, with garb and coolers and other assorted items, including hats of various sorts perched upon head of a whole bunch of folk, combined in something to be seen along the waterway. Inside the outfitter's facility, there was conversation, shower opportunities, key haven and other things that are part of this sort of day along the river road.

There was also the new cell tower, painted in alternate red and white, perched up on the ridge northeast of the camp ground, beyond the historic building where there had never ever been a tower before the past few weeks.

South scenic overlook on the north edge of Fort Niobrara NWR. Note a section of the Niobrara Scenic River in the lowest portion of the valley, the vehicles at the parking lot for Fort Falls, and the bison pens in the upland background.

Birdlife Observed

The environs prevalent in certain places along the route to and from the northwest region is the local home for numerous varieties of birds occurring during the summer season.

In Wamaduze Valley, past Brownlee, there were the usual species of the meadows and valley prairie. Merritt Reservoir and the same-named dam is a place where those bird-watchers can see some gulls and pelicans, with western grebes out beyond. The whole scene is a unique diversity, enhanced by a sprint to the cascades of Snake River Falls and the roiling waters noted by many visitors for a slight fee provided to the sportmens' club onsite.

Species noted during the long-weekend, predominantly in Cherry county, were:
American Crow, American Goldfinch, American Kestrel, American Redstart, American Robin, American White Pelican, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black Tern, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Bobolink, Brown-headed Cowbird, Burrowing Owl at the refuge prairie-dog town, Cedar Waxwing, Chimney Swift in towns, Chipping Sparrow, Cliff Swallow, Common Nighthawk, and Common Yellowthroat.
Also the Dickcissel, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Screech-Owl, Field Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Great Crested Flycatcher, Great Horned Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Horned Lark, House Finch, House Sparrow, House Wren, Killdeer, Lark Sparrow, Least Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, Orchard Oriole, and remote Pied-billed Grebe.
Noted as well at some time during the four days were the Purple Martin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Spotted Sandpiper, Spotted Towhee, Tree Swallow, Turkey Vulture, Upland Sandpiper, Western Grebe, Western Kingbird, Western Meadowlark, Western Wood-Pewee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.

The different places were the residence for distinct other sorts typical for wetland, river or forest. It was easy to listen for their songs, often an emphatic voice for the campground or wet places along the running water river. Something could occasionally be seen in the vast skies with subtle designs of scattered cloudiness.

Campground Business

The campground west of the Niobrara office at McKelvie Forest, had expressive birds, though human visitors were predominant. There were four different groups for the over-night on Saturday, using at least five camp units. A couple of drive-by gawkers went through to look at what was happening. There were camp-fires of various heights, some beyond reasonable rules in a purported compendium of rules for the camping site which designates an approved fire height, defines a suitable carbon output for groups of vehicles using the forest service facilities, status of dogs brought along, number of bosses per camping group, and other vague and uncertain particulars given as false doctrine. There was a whole other basis for behavior derived from actions and conversations about fire-pit flames central to each camp site.

The wind was called Mariah, upon which Zed, the dead dove arrived through some sort of descent to a forlorn pine among the camp-ground, then to the roost above the picnic table and firepit, for the weekend's place of repose ... near the manual water-pump among the pines spreading around dunes of sand.

Vehicles Fueling

During the drive to Cherry County and while about the region, the service stations with fuel were continually busy with nozzle's getting stuck into the typical variety of summer vehicles, predominated by cars, then sport-utility vehicles of assorted sizes, pickups which may have included an attachment of a trailer or mobile home to a limited extent, loud motorcycles going somewhere else, and some of the ranch community with their truck and sometimes a horse trailer.

Cash was the primary transaction for fuel stops along the primary highways of the region from Thedford, to Valentine, and eastward through Ainsworth and past Bassett to O'Neill.

Recreation in the Northwest Region

It was a primary summer weekend for outdoor recreation indicated throughout notable geographic places in the northwest region, in Cherry county beyond Valentine, along the scenic Niobrara River and other places among and beyond Nebraska.

Contrails in the skies above Long Pine. This pattern was distinctive and the primary feature of the mid-day skies, with other x-patterns further north.

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