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Partners in the Parks: Exploring the High Plains
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The western High Plains is a unique region of mixed-grass, tall-grass, and sand hills prairie where six major ecosystems converge due to unique geology and geography, giving the region the name “biological crossroads.”

6/9/2018 to 6/16/2018
When: June 9-16, 2018
Where: Exploring the High Plains
United States
Contact: NCHC Office
(402) 472-9150

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The western High Plains is a unique region of mixed-grass, tall-grass, and sand hills prairie where six major ecosystems converge due to unique geology and geography, giving the region the name “biological crossroads.” 

The western High Plains is underlain with a massive ramp of sediment that extends from the Rocky Mountains to the east, almost to the eastern edges of South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.  This sediment contains large amounts of water which is referred to as the Ogallala Aquifer, one of North Americas’ largest aquifers.  

By visiting a number of National Parks, we will explore how water, elevation, and sediment control the patterns of biodiversity across the high plains.  In addition, participants will have an excellent opportunity to learn about the Lakota Indians, a first nation of North America.  

The trip will start and end at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Cedar Point Biological Station, near Ogallala, NE. 


Tentative Itinerary

Saturday: June 9

  • Students will meet at Cedar Point Biological Station (CPBS), Ogallala, NE via car or  plane
  • Students flying in will be picked up from Denver International Airport (DEN.)  It is important that all students arrive at the airport as early as possible on Saturday, June 9.  Only one run to pick up students will be made in late afternoon.
  • Dinner and campfire at CPBS

Sunday, June 10

  • 7:00 am breakfast at CPBS
  • Make bag lunches
  • Leave for Valentine, NE @ 8:00 am; Arrive at Smith Falls State Park by Noon (about 3 h trip).
  • Set up campsite at Smith Falls State Park
  • Sunday afternoon activities including based on my talks with the Park Superintendent and the Niobrara National Scenic River .                             

Monday, June 11

  • Visit Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge wildlife management
  • Ranger led hike through the refuge
  • Float the Niobrara River
  • Breakfast & dinner at Smith Falls campsite
  • Lunch at visitors center at the refuge

Tuesday, June 12

  • Leave Smith Falls campsite after breakfast and drive to Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, SD ~ 2 ½ h.; arrive mid to late morning.
  •  Activities at Oglala Lakota College will include a guided tour of the Oglala Lakota College Historical Center and a talk on traditional Lakota foods, medicinal plants & herbs
  • Lunch
  • Leave College by 4:30 pm; drive to Badlands National Park, Ben Riefel Visitor Center ~ 1 h.

Ø  Set up campsite at Cedar Pass Campground

Ø  Dinner at campsite or Cedar Pass Lodge

  • Evening activities TBA

Wednesday, June 13

  • Explore Badlands National Park
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Camp at Badlands Cedar Pass Campground

Thursday, June 14, morning

  • Breakfast at Cedar Pass Campground
  • Break camp
  • Leave for Mt. Rushmore National Memorial  at 7:45 am
  • Stop at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site: opens at 8:00 am – spend 2 h at site
  •  Travel to Mt. Rushmore (~ 1½ - 2h) – 97 mi 
  • Eat lunch at Mt. Rushmore; activities TBA; leave by 2:00 pm
  • Travel from Mt. Rushmore to Crazy Horse Memorial (~ ½ h – 29 mi); activities TBA – open 7:00 am – 10:30 pm

Thursday, June 14, late afternoon travel to Wind Cave National Park (~30 – 40 min – 23 mi)

  • Set-up camp at Elk Mountain group campsite
  • Dinner
  • Evening activities TBA



Friday, June 15

Saturday, June 16

  • Leave Wind Cave campsite as early as possible and travel to CPBS (~ 4 h – 234 mi)
  • Possible stops on way back to CPBS may include:
  • Hot Springs, SD – Mammoth Museum
  • Angustora Resevoir, SD – great place to swim

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, NE); hours – 9:00 am – 5:00 pm: tour fossil beds starting at 3:00 pm; leave at 5 pm; (Agate to Ogallala – 3 h (170 mi)

·         Arrive at CPBS late evening

·         Those students who are driving are free to leave. Otherwise, food and housing will be provided at CPBS.

Sunday, June 17

  • Students requiring a ride to the Denver Airport should be ready to leave by 7:00 am. It is a 3 hour trip to the airport and at least 2 hours should be allotted for check-in. Therefore,  it is recommended that flights should not be scheduled to leave prior to 1:30 pm.


Notes: Camping Equipment

  • Tents will be provided
  • Participants are encouraged to bring a sleeping bag and sleeping mat.  These items can be supplied by the host, if necessary.
  • All other camping supplies such as utensils, stoves, etc. will be provided.
  • A complete list of personal items and recommended clothing will be provided later.


Program Size 12 Students
NCHC Member Price $600 (does not include airfare)
NCHC Nonmember Price $1200 (does not include airfare)
Deadline to Register May 9, 2018





Trip Facilitator

Bill Glider, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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