Five miles east of Valentine on Highway 12 is Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. It is home to a herd of bison, a herd of elk, and a prairie dog town. A driving tour there will allow you to find all three on most occasions. A beautiful three-quarter-mile hiking trail near the Niobrara River will take you by Fort Falls—one of the area’s prettier waterfalls—and wind down along the scenic river.
As the name indicates, the refuge is the site of a frontier fort. Fort Niobrara was active from 1879 to 1906 and was used as a cavalry remount station until 1911. The visitor center on the grounds has photos and a history of the fort. Also on display are fossils of long-jawed mastodons, giant bison, and three-toed horses.