One doesn’t think of Nebraska as a home of waterfalls, but along the Niobrara River in the north of the state, there are over one hundred.
Most of them are not accessible by road; you have to float down the river to see them.
My wife and I went to visit the two largest in the state, near Valentine.
Most of the waterfalls are not from creeks or rivers. The falls are created by rainwater sinking into the ground, through a valley-fill formation known as the Ash Hollow Formation, which dates to five million years ago. Beneath it is the Valentine Formation, which dates to ten million years ago. Water sinks through the topsoil and the Ash Hollow Formation, and is diverted laterally along the top of the Valentine Formation, where it comes out at the Niobrara River as a waterfall.
The river bed is below the level of the Ogallala Aquifer, so the river level represents the aquifer level.
You would not guess Fort Falls is found on land which looks like this.
This is Fort Falls, the second-highest falls in Nebraska. It is located at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (goes to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Website describing the refuge).
The Niobrara River, seen from the centre of the one-lane Berry Bridge (access to the south half National Wildlife Refuge and the waterfall).
This is the lower cascade of Smith Falls, the highest waterfall in Nebraska.
This is the upper cascade of Smith Falls, the highest waterfall in Nebraska, at 63 feet (19m). It is accessible by about a mile walk from the entrance to Smith Falls State Park (Goes to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Website, describing the state park and falls).
This is the Verdigre Bridge, which crosses the Niobrara River to reach the Smith Falls.
The bridge used to be a few miles to the east, one of Nebraska’s Depression-era State Aid bridges, as part of State Highway 14. The bridge was decommissioned as a highway bridge in 1991 and moved to the state park to access the falls, after being refurbished by the Game and Parks Commission and the Department of Roads.
Another view of the bridge, with my wife standing on it for scale.