Niobrara Valley Preserve From The Air

We arrived at the Niobrara Valley Preserve yesterday in pouring rain.  The road in from the south was nearly impassable and our data collection plans were scrapped for the day.  As evening neared, though, the rain started to let off, and just as the sun was nearing the horizon, it popped out from behind the clouds.  Suddenly, the entire Niobrara Valley was bathed in gorgeous golden light.  I scrambled to get the drone up into the air.

Looking downriver with the sun behind. Can you see Alex on the sandbar?

Facing the sun as it drops below the horizon.

The Nebraska Sandhills extend nearly forever south of the river (12 million acres of contiguous prairie). You can’t even see the entire 12,000 east bison pasture in this photo. The scale is just immense.

The Niobrara Valley Preserve headquarters is nestled between the Sandhills and the river. The campus now includes a couple new buildings, which will greatly help us improve visitor access and experiences.

The Niobrara Valley Preserve is already magical, but when you add that kind of evening light, it just becomes absolutely spectacular.  Below is a 30 second video showing more of a panorama view of just one small part of the 56,000 acre property.

Thank you to everyone who supports our conservation work, both at the Niobrara Valley Preserve and elsewhere around the state, country, and world.

Special thank you to the Nebraska Environmental Trust for funding this effort through a PIE (Public Information and Education) minigrant, administered through the Nebraska Academy of Sciences.

Photo of the Week – December 28, 2017

Kim and I spent a few days at the Niobrara Valley Preserve this week, something that has become an annual holiday tradition for us.  As always, it was beautiful, peaceful, and we were alone in a big wild place – the three components of a perfect getaway.  We saw plenty of wildlife, including multitudes of eagles and deer, as well as flocks of meadowlarks, robins, tree sparrows, and grouse.  In addition, tracks of many other animals were abundant in the recently-fallen snow.  I kept hopeful eyes out for mountain lion tracks, but didn’t see any – though I did have a strong sense of being watched one night, while out photographing night scenes under a half moon.  It wasn’t just the cold temperatures that made me shiver a little.

A skeletal stick frames the rising sun over the frosty Niobrara River.

I spent one particularly nice hour or so exploring the partially frozen river one morning, and was able to get some photos before heavy overcast skies took over.  The temperature was hovering around zero, but it was nevertheless a pleasant calm morning.  I enjoyed the solitude and sunrise and then walked back up to a hot breakfast before Kim and I headed out for a longer hike.  Here are a few photos from my sunrise walk.

Tracks of some kind of water bird on a sand bar.  The individual toe prints were approximately an inch long, maybe a little longer.  

Slushy ice floats down the Niobrara River as the sun comes up.

I wish you all a wonderful and happy new year; something I’m very much looking forward to myself.