Ponca State Park

Yellow Warbler at nest
Ponca Park
Ponca Park overlooking the Missouri River – Photo by Paul A. Johnsgard

This park is mostly forested with stands of bur oak, walnut, hackberry and elms; one of the oaks is more than 300 years old. A bird list of 297 species includes the park plus adjoining parts of northeast Nebraska, southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa. Spring and fall migration can bring warblers, tanagers, vireos, and flycatchers to this site. There are 21 miles of hiking trails and modern cabins are available, as is an undeveloped campground.

There are several places where there are scenic overlooks of the Missouri River valley. Whip-poor-wills are common in summer, and bald eagles are present during winter months. Snow geese migrate past the area in spring and fall, and the nearby Missouri River is still unchanneled here, thus resembling its original state. The Missouri National Recreational River extends for 39 miles along the South Dakota -­Nebraska border to the mouth of the Niobrara, and also extends upstream along the Niobrara to Verdigre Creek. The Missouri National Recreational River is recognized as an Important Bird Area of Nebraska. A Missouri National Recreational River Resource and Education Center is located at Ponca State Park and provides information on river ecology and associated animal life. It is open all year. State park entry permit required.