VALENTINE — With all the damage downstream from the mid-March flooding of the Niobrara River, the river segment near here is open and ready for business.
“We feel awful about the devastation that impacted everything that happened downstream,” said Richard Mercure, owner of Little Outlaw Canoe Tube and Kayak. “This has been the toughest spring and early summer.”
But Mercure said it’s also important to note that conditions in Valentine on the Niobrara are business as usual.
“The water was high earlier in May, but we’re good to go for the summer,” he said. “Now we’re right at normal levels and ready to go.”
Steve Thede, who is the superintendent of the Niobrara National Scenic River for the National Parks Service, agreed with Mercure.
“We had a huge flow through here earlier in May on the river,” Thede said. “But it’s back to normal now.”
Valentine has noticed a trend downward in people taking advantage of the Niobrara thus far this summer.
“We haven’t had but one group of canoers, kayakers or tubers this summer,” said Sara Ferguson, manager of the Niobrara Lodge. “And, by now, we’ve usually had a bunch.”
That may have been because all of the attention paid to the flooding in North Central Nebraska earlier this year may have scared some people off — unnecessarily, as it turns out.
“There is absolutely nothing to worry about,” Thede said. “We have everything back to normal here and ready for visitors.”
Joan Rupe, owner of the Trade Winds Lodge, also has noticed the misconception of the river in Valentine.
“We’ve had people call and wonder about the flooding here in Valentine,” Rupe said. “Everything is in great shape, and we’re ready for people.”
The head of Cherry County Tourism, Regina Osburn, was on board with everyone’s assessment of the conditions on the Niobrara just outside of Valentine.
“All of our levels are back to normal,” Osburn said. “It’s the perfect time to come visit Valentine.”
Mercure also mentioned the misconception across the state about what condition the Niobrara River is in near Valentine.
“I understand, but the people calling our place don’t understand that we are just fine,” Mercure said. “Get in touch with your outfitter here in town and come on up to Valentine. We are ready for you.”
“Our top priority is the river and safety,” Thede said. “Everything here is just fine for both.”