Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is 19,131 acres in size and located along the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska. Fort Niobrara NWR was established by Executive Order in January, 1912 as a “preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” Furthermore, the unusual, and unique assemblage of plant communities currently present at the Refuge (Sandhills Prairie, Mixed Prairie, Rocky Mountain Coniferous Forest, Eastern Deciduous Forest, and Northern Boreal Forest) support a rich diversity of wildlife generally unchanged from historic times. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, a 4,635-acre portion of Fort Niobrara was designated a Wilderness Area in 1976; a portion of the Niobrara River through the Refuge was designated a National Canoe Trail by Congress in 1982; and, in 1991, a 76 mile stretch of the Niobrara River including the River through this Refuge was designated Scenic under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
2023 Muzzleloader Application August 15-September 15, 2023

Please fill out the application and email to with the subject as 2023 muzzleloader application.…

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Visit Us

Fort Niobrara provides numerous recreational opportunities to thousands of visitors every year. During your visit, you can view the unique geology and diverse wildlife and plants whether driving, hiking, or river floating. Hunting is allowed in areas north and west of the Niobrara River and fishing is allowed in Minnechaduza Creek and in the Niobrara River downstream of the Cornell Dam. Floating the Niobrara River is permitted throughout the year.

You can learn more about wildlife and their habitats by stopping at kiosks and the Visitor Center on the Refuge. The Visitor Center is open during normal office hours, Monday - Friday, 9-4 PM, excluding federal holidays. 

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Fort Niobrara Refuge, established in 1912, is located on the northern edge of the Nebraska Sandhills along the Niobrara River. An unusual mix of topography, soils, and rock formations along with differing exposures to sun, wind, and moisture creates a rich diversity of plants and animals. Deciduous forests and riparian riparian
      Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

      Learn more about riparian
      wetlands border the river; coniferous forests grow on drier hillsides and canyon slopes; and mixed grass prairie is found on hard tablelands north of the river and sand dunes to the south. Sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie chickens, and a variety of migratory birds thrive on the Refuge along with bison and other resident mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

      Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is one of 6 managed Refuges within the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Complex includes Refuges in Nebraska and South Dakota.

      Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is located at
      39983 Refuge Road
      Valentine, Nebraska 69201

      Visitor Center hours are Monday-Friday, 9-4 pm.


      Visitors have the potential to be rewarded with views of bison, deer, coyotes, and a variety of native grassland birds while driving through the Refuge. Maps and additional information may be picked up at the Visitor Center. All wildlife, including bison, can be dangerous please stay in your vehicle while driving through the refuge.

      What We Do

      Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
      A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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      is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using science, staff of the Refuge System manage Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species. 

      Management of Fort Niobrara Refuge focuses on conserving native birds, bison, and the biological diversity of the area.  Refuge staff use a variety of habitat management tools to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife communities. 

      The Refuge routinely partners with state agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations to complete projects.  These partnerships typically benefit refuge habitats, infrastructure, recreational opportunities, higher education, and the local economy. From its start in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has owed its very existence to concerned citizens eager to protect America's natural resources. We welcome volunteers! The Sandhills Prairie Refuge Association is a Friends Group established to support the refuges of the Sandhills NWR Complex. 

      Refuge managers and biologists conduct scientific inventory and monitoring of the habitats and wildlife on the Refuge. It is important to know what types of plants and animals historically used the refuge. The information they obtain is used to make decisions in how to best maintain or improve habitat conditions to provide for the diverse array of plants and animals that live on the Refuge and surrounding area. 

      Our Organization

      The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

      The Refuge System protects some of the country’s most beautiful wild places and the fish and wildlife that rely on them: prairies of the heartland, teeming with native pollinators and bison; hardwood forests of the Southeast, a source of regional and cultural pride; desert Southwest landscapes, home to vibrant and rare plant communities that draw new life during the summer monsoon season. The Refuge System also conserves waterways that give life to all of them — critical ecosystems along rivers, streams, wetlands, coasts and marine areas.

      The National Wildlife Refuge System lands and waters serve a purpose distinct from that of other U.S. public lands: Wildlife conservation drives everything on national wildlife refuges, from the purposes for which each refuge was established, to the recreational activities offered, to the resource management tools used.

      Each Refuge is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose. Fort Niobrara NWR employs grazing, prescribed fire, wildlife monitoring, and more to attain the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. We also offer mission-compatible recreational opportunities such as fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking and more. 

      Our Species

      Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge was established “... as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” Many National Wildlife Refuges were established for migratory bird conservation; however, Fort Niobrara includes the conservation of non-migratory native bird species such as prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse. Fort Niobrara Refuge is also home to many other species including deer, coyote, badger and bison. 

      Projects and Research

      Inventory and monitoring projects are conduct to and support Refuge purposes; further understand the wildlife and plant communities, inform management for a diversity of species and environmental health. This includes federally threatened and endangered species. Perhaps the most interesting project on the Refuge is the bison program. Bison are rounded up each year to manage the herd. During the fall roundup, staff monitor herd health and collect blood samples or hair samples to document genetics within the herd. This event is open for public viewing!