Visitor Activities

Hiker - Fort Niobrara Wilderness

Fort Niobrara NWR is a great place to see, appreciate, and learn about wildlife and their habitats. The Refuge offers many opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

  • Wildlife Observation

    Fort Niobrara Elk

    If you enjoy getting outdoors and looking for wildlife, consider a visit to your nearest national wildlife refuge!  From birding to whale watching, from viewing speedy pronghorn antelope or slow-moving box turtles, wildlife observation is the most popular activity for refuge visitors.

    From every state and all parts of the globe, about 40 million people visit each year, especially for the chance to see concentrations of wildlife and birds.  The National Wildlife Refuge System’s extensive trail system, boardwalks, observation decks, hunting and photography blinds, fishing piers and boat launches encourage visitors to discover America’s best wildlife spectacles.  For more information about wildlife observation opportunities at Fort Niobrara NWR, contact us.

    Bison, elk, deer, and prairie dogs can be seen along the 3.5 mile wildlife drive throughout the year. Maps and additional information may be picked up at the visitor center. Due to the presence of big game animals, the best photographic opportunities occur while staying in your vehicle. Wildlife generally feels less threatened by vehicles than by pedestrian traffic.  Bison and Elk are dangerous, give them plenty of space and do not approach them on foot.

  • Photography

    Bison in Field

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive! 

  • Interpretation

    Hiking the Fort Falls Nature Trail

    Refuge System interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, many national wildlife refuges help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.

    In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors.  Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species.

    Through Refuge System interpretation programs, you can learn why nearly all of the critically endangered Whooping Cranes spend the winter at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, about the beneficial role of wildfire to encourage native vegetation to grow at Necedah Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, and thousands of other interesting and informative stories.

    Exhibits and films are available at the visitor center, which also houses a small sales outlet offering educational and interpretive products. Interpretive leaflets for hiking may also be found at the visitor center.

    The visitor center is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except for Federal holidays during the winter. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the hours are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Sunday, except for Federal holidays. 

  • Environmental Education

    School Children at Fort Niobrara

    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences.  Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities.  Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.  Fort Niobrara NWR hosts Nature Fest, which is put on by the local environmental education cooperative for 4th graders from several area schools, each year.  

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular national wildlife refuge?  Contact or visit Fort Niobrara NWR to check on program availability and reservation policies.  Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

  • Hunting

    White tail Bow Hunter

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

    As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management.  For example, because their natural predators are gone, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support.

    Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.

    To find out more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations on Fort Niobrara NWR, contact the refuge manager.

  • Fishing

    Child Fishing - USFWS

    In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a wide variety of quality fishing opportunities.  Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System.  Every year, about 7 million anglers visit national wildlife refuges, where knowledgeable staff and thousands of volunteers help them have a wonderful fishing experience.

    Quality fishing opportunities are available on more than 270 national wildlife refuges.  Visitors can experience virtually type of sport fishing on the continent.  From inconnu and grayling in remote Alaska, to snook hovering by mangroves in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, national wildlife refuges offer anglers adventure and diversity.

    For a great place to reconnect with a favorite childhood activity or to try it for the first time, make plans to fish at a national wildlife refuge soon.  Find more information with our on-line Guide to Fishing on National Wildlife Refuge.

    At Fort Niobrara NWR, fishing is allowed in Minnechaduza Creek and in the Niobrara River downstream of the Cornell Dam. Collecting baitfish, frogs, and turtles is not allowed. Fishing is subject to Nebraska fishing regulations.