New walkway eases access to Smith Falls, Nebraska’s highest waterfall

By: - June 5, 2023 5:00 am
Smith Falls

A new walkway has been installed at Smith Falls, the state’s highest waterfall near Valentine, Neb. (Justin Haag/Nebraskaland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission)

LINCOLN — A new, 500-foot walkway to Smith Falls, the state’s highest waterfall, has been completed, easing access to the popular stop along the Niobrara River.

The walkway, constructed of composite decking on a steel frame with aluminum handrails, is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New benches along the boardwalk provide places for visitors to rest, and a platform over the stream has been added to allow for viewing of the falls from a new, scenic vantage point.

Visitors can still get showered by the falls

Visitors may take a chilly walk under the 63-foot waterfall via steps at the boardwalk’s south end — a popular ritual for those floating or kayaking down the Niobrara.

The walkway had been closed since September 2022 for replacement of an aging, wooden boardwalk.

The project was funded in large part via a fund established by the Nebraska Legislature in 2016 to help preserve Nebraska’s public outdoor recreation facilities and parklands. State and federal funds were also used, along with revenue generated by park entry fees.

Smith Falls State Park is part of the state park system operated by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Amy Kucera is the park’s superintendent.

Also reopened to the public recently was the 1.5-mile Jim MacAllister Nature Trail in the park.


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.