Ponca State Park is located in northeastern Nebraska on the Missouri River. It encompasses nearly 1400 acres of rugged heavily forested hills and Missouri River bottomland. The park has a wonderful new education center, visitor center and museum, as well as overnight accommodations ranging from primitive campsites to impressive new mini-lodges. I had never been there until recently when I made two trips to Ponca State Park with grandchildren.
The first trip, my oldest grand-daughter and I spent a night in a rustic cabin at the park. For her birthday gift, albeit belated, she wanted to spend time together some place we could do some hiking. Of course I was thrilled that was what she wanted. Doing a bit of research online, we decided to try Ponca State Park. As we were there in the middle of the week in September, we had the whole park nearly to ourselves. During the official season (Memorial Day through Labor Day) it’s difficult to even get a cabin and there are many activities, such as horseback riding, swimming and kayaking, and a shooting range. We did some hiking and in our exploring, we discovered what a great park this truly is.
We also got information about the upcoming outdoor expo. This year was the 10th Anniversary Missouri River Outdoor Expo at Ponca State Park. This is a joint effort between Nebraska Game and Parks, numerous corporate sponsors and many other individuals and organizations. There is a $5 entrance fee per vehicle and the activities are all free.
The three youngest grandchildren and I set out early on a September Saturday to take part in the fun. A bonus was that my daughter, who lives nearby, got to join us for part of the day. We had an absolute ball, even considering the fact that there were approximately twenty thousand people in attendance. Since I don’t particularly like mass events, the fact that I would go back in a heartbeat says a lot.
There were demonstrations of all kinds of outdoor and heritage activities, and wildlife and outdoor sports exhibits. It was extremely well organized and even though we had to wait in line for some of the activities the kids wanted to do, the waits were not awful and the things they got to do were worth it. We even got to watch the dock dogs while waiting for the climbing wall. Other activities they chose included: bowfishing, kayaking, archery at 3D targets, atl atl throwing at a wooly mammoth and a saber-toothed tiger (figures of course).
We had such a good time, that right now the plan is a birthday trip to Ponca State Park for two grandkids in the not distant future. The kids can bring their own bows and arrows and we can use the archery ranges on our own. We can hike and stay in a cabin, and we can choose a time that, as they said, “all these other people won’t be here.”
For more information: http://www.stateparks.com/ponca_state_park_in_nebraska.html