Of Nebraska’s eight state parks and many other state recreation areas, state historical parks, and countless other places to have fun outdoors, Ponca State Park stands out as one of the jewels in the state’s crown. Located in extreme northeast Nebraska, the park is one of the most visited – and most beloved – attractions in this part of the state.
Easily one of the most picturesque places in the entire state, Ponca State Park is located just outside of Ponca, NE.
The park is right on the Missouri River at the confluence of the borders of Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa.
In fact, if you're up for a bit of a walk, you can go up to the Three States Overlook for a view of all three states.
It's a spectacular vista, even in the middle of winter.
Ponca is a place of intense natural beauty year-round. Twenty-two miles of hiking and biking trails keep visitors challenged and engaged with the diverse flora and fauna.
You'll find little unexpected treasures in different parts of the park, from the limestone strata outcroppings noted by Lewis and Clark...
...to the majestic oak tree that was already 24 years old when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock.
These pillars are one of the most recognizable sights in the park, celebrating the past, present, and future of life in the area.
The waterfall and reflecting pond celebrate the importance of water to all life...and they make for such a serene and beautiful place to just sit and think.
The park offers educational and recreational programs year-round. You can do almost anything at Ponca, from canoeing to archery to entering a fishing competition to attending a kite show. You can even learn to throw a tomahawk at the Eric Wiebe Memorial Shooting Complex.
The park has an older public pool which is still open as of summer 2016, but the parks service plans to have a new pool up and running for the 2017 summer season.
There are lots of year-round camping sites at Ponca, both primitive and modern. But the rental cabins and mini-lodges really offer an unforgettable stay. Take that experience one step further and stay in one of the two "green cabins," which are made of straw bales and are open year-round.
It would actually be difficult to be bored on a visit to Ponca State Park. In addition to hiking, boating, fishing, and wildlife spotting, the area also offers golfing, horseback riding, endless special events, and holiday celebrations.
Ponca also features one of the best outdoor education programs in the state. Kids and adults can learn all about stewardship, environmentalism, natural history, conservation, and wildlife. Educational programs run daily all summer and on weekends the rest of the year.
If you love Ponca so much that you want to share it with your friends, family, or colleagues for a special event, you can rent rooms in the Missouri National Recreational River Resource and Education Center. Can you imagine how magical a wedding would be in this spectacular place?
Even if you live on the other side of the state, you should definitely try to get to this gem at least once. Until then, take a look at
this rundown of all of the Nebraska State Parks and choose your own adventure.