This trans-state trail stretches from the tallgrass prairies and Missouri Valley hardwood forests of southeastern Nebraska west across the tallgrass prairies of the Nemaha and Blue river valleys and the mixed-grass bluestem prairies and loess soils of south-central Nebraska, to the dry shortgrass prairies and arid sandsage grasslands of southwestern Nebraska.
Across the entire Republican Valley Trail western meadowlarks, Nebraska’s state bird, are common, but the eastern meadowlark is also likely to be seen in the tallgrass prairies, and along wet meadowlands farther west. Burchard Lake Wildlife Management Area (Pawnee County) has a fine stand of tallgrass prairie and a small flock of greater prairie-chickens, with two permanent observation blinds. Pawnee Prairie Wildlife Management Area (Pawnee County), located south of the village of Burchard, has a larger stand of tallgrass prairie, as well as resident greater prairie-chickens, but no permanent blinds.
The Willa Cather prairie (Webster County) is a remnant mixed-grass prairie developed over deep loess soil, and is located near Willa Cather’s home town of Red Cloud. Swanson Reservoir Wildlife Management Area (Hitchcock County) has over 1,000 acres of shortgrass prairie and associated high plains wildlife, and its large reservoir attracts many migrant birds.
Harlan County Lake (Harlan County), as well as Medicine Creek (Frontier County), Red Willow (Red Willow County) and Enders (Chase County) reservoirs, all lying within the Republican River basin, are also notable birding sites in this general region of southern Nebraska.
This route also includes the eastern and western Rainwater Basins south of the Platte River, which when filled with spring runoff water are wonderful waterfowl and shorebird birding areas. See the Platte Valley Trail for details of this region.
Paul A. Johnsgard