Most folks will read the title to this post and wonder if I hit my head on something while out shooting or if this is a typo but I assure you it is not! When you think about waterfalls often you think of scenic places such as Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, or Colorado… not Nebraska. Despite contrary belief their really are waterfalls in Nebraska and all of them are located within an hour of eachother near the small town of Valentine, Nebraska in the North-Central portion of the state near the South Dakota border. My goal was to document that my lovely homestate does in fact have waterfalls and they while they don’t quite compete with what I’ve seen in other states, they do hold their own for Midwest waterfalls and unlike certain unnamed Southern states, whom I shall not name, these ones flow year-round because they are spring-fed which means anytime you go you will see water!
The first waterfall in our tour de force was also probably the most difficult to find. Snake Falls is a very high volume waterfall located along the Snake River about 20-30 minutes from Valentine, NE. The problem is one of signage. The turnoff to get to Snake Falls on Highway 97 is not marked at all as far as we could tell. Thankfully we were able to pull cell signal out there [GPS had no clue either!] and follow a Google map to where the turn “should” be. From there you just follow the dirt road and you eventually end up at the lodge which is where the second problem comes up. The Snake Falls area is owned by the Snake Falls Sportsman’s Club which in and of itself is not an issue except that the hours of operation are subject to change on whim and I’ve heard reports of the gates being closed on days when it should be open. I guess they aren’t too eager to get the $1/person admission that is charged to go down to the falls. Sadly it is an unmanned box and between the four of us we only had a $5 bill so the Sportsman got lucky that day. I will say tho, we got our $5 worth!
The hike down to the falls is a bit treacherous and the path is very poorly maintained. I was hoping the admission might cover some trail maintenance but I was clearly mistaken. The trail itself is dirt and in several parts requires you to climb straight up/down depending on which direction you are doing or do as we did, sit down and slide. To make things more interesting, you are near the Snake River and if you slide too far in some places you’re going to get [very] wet! The photo above shows the Snake River roaring through the canyon and if you look in the middle-right you can see some of the trail itself. We found several other trails, also unmarked, throughout the property and access to them was questionable at best. I think the Sportsmen have a great opportunity to improve the property but are currently in a holding pattern as the State of Nebraska has been trying to buy the entire bit of land to turn into a State Park. As of this writing, nothing has been set in stone on that front so keep bringing your dollar bills when you visit!
Once you reach the bottom of the trail it is just a short, mostly level, walk to Snake Falls itself. Remember that part about earlier about how Nebraska has real waterfalls? This is one of the best in the state, hands down. There are plenty of rocks around the falls which make for a great place to sit and watch the powerful waterfall do its thing. Someone noted on another website that Snake Falls only has an 8′ drop but I find that to be inaccurate. I would guess that Snakes Falls is closer to 30′ and mixed with the large volume of water the Snake River feeds into it, I don’t think I would want to go over the edge!
After hiking around the lower area enjoying the sights and sounds of Snake Falls and the Snake River we decided to head back up the slope to the car. I can say with great certainty that going UP is far worse than coming DOWN so prepare yourself and be careful! The dirt is slick and there isn’t really a whole lot to grab onto. I highly recommend a walking stick of some sort [I cheat and use my tripod!] to help gain some extra footing. Overall the trail is definately a “wear your hiking boots” affair and there is a sign warning of Rattlesnakes tho we did not see any the entire time we were out. On the way back to the car I spotted another trail heading off towards the top of the falls and figured I’d give it a quick look before we went back to town to eat dinner. This was another dirt trail much like the others with the same level of maintenance and treacherous inclines and declines. I was rewarded for my effort by coming to a nice rock ledge overlooking the falls!
I leave you with this last photo from that spot and will continue the story in part two with stories of Smith Falls, Turkey Feather Falls, Fort Falls, and Upper Berry Falls so stay tuned!