Activities

BEGINNERS FIELD SCHOOL – Newcomers to astronomy, children, and spouses of dedicated observers will appreciate this introduction to observing the night sky.  Over the course of three days, these two-hour classes each day will focus on a new skill.   Then each evening the students will be able to practice and fine tune those new skills under the sandhills’ starry skies.

DOOR PRIZES – Door prizes will be given away at NSP gatherings during the week.  All NSP registrants are eligible for door prizes, with a number of prizes reserved especially for children.  Details will be included upon pre-registration.

CONTESTS – Enter the NSP Astro-Photography Contest with submissions from your existing portfolio or shots newly captured during the week.  Four categories include wide-field shots, solar system subjects, deep sky images, and ‘taken at NSP’.  Or test your observing skills against one of our Observing Challenges.  There are lists of objects to hunt down at every skill level, and for all classes of optical aids.

Valentine Area Attractions

Located in the heart of the sandhills of north-central Nebraska, Merritt Reservoir is truly the pearl of Nebraska’s lakes.  Its pure water and beautiful sugar sand beaches offer refreshing swimming, boating, water skiing, and excellent fishing.  Merritt Reservoir is the home of many state fishing records.  At 2900 acres, the lake is 11 miles long, with 44 miles of tree-rimmed white sand shoreline.

Merritt

Other activities include sightseeing, hiking, canoeing, golfing, and boating.  Boat rentals are available at Merritt Resort.  You can see elk, deer, bison, & more at the nearby wildlife refuge.  Or, you may want to visit the Rosebud Casino at the Rosebud Reservation just across the South Dakota border.

-For a relaxing and cooling break from summer’s heat, canoe or tube down the spring-fed Niobrara River, the only national scenic river in the great plains.  The Niobrara is rated one of the top ten canoeing rivers in the country by Backpacker Magazine.  Steep canyons rimmed with birch, oak, and pine trees frame the river in spectacular beauty.  Valentine is the starting point for river trips.  Each year many families take to the water, some in canoes and some on tubes to explore the longest stretch of scenic river in Nebraska.

-The highest waterfall in the state is Smith Falls, located 17 miles northeast of Valentine along the Niobrara River in Smith Falls State Park.  Paper birch trees flank its 65 foot drop.  Though in Nebraska “high” is relative, Smith Falls is a must-see stopping point for those canoeing the Niobrara.  The falls can also be reached by car on Hwy 12. Hiking and nature trails wind through the area.

-A short distance north of Merritt Reservoir along Nebraska Highway 97 is Snake River Falls.  This is the largest waterfall by volume in the state.

-The Cherry County Historical Society Museum is found at the intersection of Highways 20 and 83 in Valentine.  This log cabin dating from 1882 boasts a quality collection of artifacts and photos of homesteaders, native Americans, and pioneer town builders.  Open selected hours from May through September.

-Centennial Hall Museum, at 2nd and Macob in Valentine, is housed in an 1897 brick school building which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It contains large collections of china and bells along with homestead, school, church, and cowboy artifacts. Open Fridays and Saturdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

-The Sandhills Museum on W. Hwy 20 in Valentine hosts items which were of importance to life in Nebraska’s remote sandhills area, including antique autos, guns, musical instruments, household antiques, Indian Artifacts, and a moonshine still.  Open Memorial Day to Labor Day.

-For an authentic view of Lakota life visit the Rosebud Indian Reservation.  Pow wows are held in different communities almost every weekend during the summer.  There are hand-crafted items  for sale such as jewelry and star quilts.  The Buechel Lakota Museum is located on the reservation, located directly north of Cherry County in South Dakota.

-Rosebud Casino offers practical exercises in applied statistical probability nine miles north of Valentine on the Rosebud reservation.  Open 24 hours, a shuttle is available from the city of Valentine.

-The Arthur Bowring Sandhills Ranch, three miles north and east of Merriman, is a State Historical Park and the state’s first and only living history ranch.  Features a restored “soddy” – one of the stacked sod homes constructed by settlers from available materials, Bowring home tours, and the Eve Bowring Visitor Center.

-The McKelvie National Forest is 116,000 acres of native prairie that includes 2,200 acres of man-planted conifer forest.  The area is good for camping, hiking, bird watching, and hunting.

-The State Fish Hatchery, two miles north of Valentine, offers tours.  It is open between May 15 and September 15.

-Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, just a few miles south of  the NSP Observing Field offers hunting, fishing, and bird watching amidst native sandhills prairie.

-Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, five miles east of Valentine, features a drive-through exhibition pasture to view elk, buffalo, longhorn cattle, deer, fake watches and prairie dogs.  A visitor center and Fort Falls waterfall complete the attraction.

For additional information you may call the Valentine Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-658-4024 or check out the Visit Valentine website.  These people are friendly and helpful, and they have lots of good information.

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