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Midland Musings with Jenny Nguyen – Niobrara SP In the Winter

If you’ve been paying attention to the forecast, you’ll know that we’re in for some real winter. I can’t say that I’m excited, but I am certainly curious. The guys at the Norfolk office have been telling me to stay put and to stock up on food and water, and to keep my phone charged in case if anything happens. I feel like I’m preparing for an earthquake, or something!

Anyway, all this talk of winter reminds me of last week when I visited Niobrara State Park for the first time. One of my goals in these first few months is to familiarize myself with Northeast region as much as possible, to get out to as many state parks and WMAs and to meet as many people as I can. After an entire week of playing phone tag, I was finally able to get together with Mark Rettig, superintendent at Niobara State Park.

When I arrived, I was struck by the beauty of that entire region along the Niobrara River, with its stunning, vast flood plains and snow capped hills in the distance. This may sound odd, but for some reason, I was reminded of my time in Alaska, except the hills aren’t so tall. For those who have never been, all I can say that Niobrara State Park is different. It’s hilly, hidden and out of the way, just the way I like it.

Mark showed me the campgrounds, cabins, hiking trails and horse trails. He told me about all the fun events Niobrara hosts throughout the year, including a Buffalo Cookout where guests get to enjoy good food and entertainment. You can bet on my being there!

Then, I just had to meet the horses. Niobrara currently has a total of 17 horses for trail rides from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. During the winter, the horses stay at the park. Mark goes out to feed them everyday. I know what I will be doing when the weather gets warmer… the wranglers will be sick and tired of me.

To my surprise, it started to snow. Wildlife biologist Scott Wessel and I drove out that morning together. Nowhere in the forecast did we find any indication of snow. As cold as it was, it was a magical moment being able to photograph horses in such weather.

As the day began to grow dark, deer stirred inside the park. It was a pleasure for me. Since arriving in Nebraska, I have only seen a handful of deer.

By the time Scott and I hit the road, things began to look like this. It was slow going getting home, but we were able to get back safe and sound. I don’t think I can ever get used to this kind of weather, but it is sure beautiful from inside a warm car.

Whatever happens tomorrow, be careful out there!

About Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley is Nebraskaland Magazine's associate editor. She enjoys hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and wild game cooking.

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