Golden Prairie Bison is run by Carl and Vicki Simmons. We strive to be good stewards of the land and livestock we own and manage near the edge of the largest stabilized sand dune in the world, the Sandhills of Nebraska. We have been in the business of converting the grasses of the Great Plains into beef since Carl’s grandparents homesteaded here in 1914. In about 1997 we reintroduced American Bison (Bison bison) to our lands. For decades we have explained to visitors that, in actuality, we just sell valued-added grasses. Since it has been said that a cubic yard of undisturbed soil is one of the two most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, maybe we should say “we sell value-added microbes.” As much as possible, we husband our bison unfettered, with no antibiotics or hormones and no unnecessary working. In addition to caring for the land, we provide educational tours about prairie ecosystems and camping experiences to visitors.
The Cherry County skies are a canvas of the brightest stars you have ever seen. The lack of light pollution and the tranquil and quiet surroundings make it the ideal place view the night sky. This is why Merritt Reservoir south of Valentine has been home to the Nebraska Star Party for over 25 years. Come see for yourself.
The Sandhills of Nebraska, the quiet beauty of the state. Covering 19,000 square miles, it is the largest tract of stabilized sand dunes in the Western Hemisphere. Considered an inhospitable desert by early settlers, the Sandhills instead proved to be prime rangeland for raising cattle. The lush grasslands are nourished by the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest groundwater sources in the world. The grassy hills rise up to 400 feet and can be as long as 20 miles. While other parts of the world scream beauty, the Sandhills whisper.
Nestled in the Sandhills and bordering Merritt Reservoir, this 115,000-acre forest offers many outdoor activities. The word forest is used somewhat loosely in this case, as only 5,000 acres of the forest are actually wooded. The remaining 110,000 acres are rolling sandhills. The area is open to hunting in season, offering excellent upland game bird, waterfowl, and deer hunting. Hiking, biking, fishing, and bird watching are also popular in this area. Steer Creek Campground offers beautiful and secluded campsites in the pines of the forest.
This 72,000-acre refuge is set in a beautiful combination of rolling sandhills and pristine spring-fed lakes. Nine of the lakes are open to fishing year-round, offering bass, northern pike, perch, and bluegill. Fishing hours are sunup to sundown, and only electric motors are allowed. The refuge is also home to great hunting habitat and is well-known for its sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chicken populations. Deer, pheasant, and waterfowl hunting are allowed in season. Waterfowl hunting is limited, so check with the refuge for its game regulations.
If just enjoying the peace and quiet is what you prefer, there is plenty of space for hiking, including a self-guided interpretive trail. Spectacular bird watching awaits as well. During their annual migration, thousands of ducks and geese stop to feed. In April and May, photo blinds are placed on prairie chicken and sharp tailed grouse booming grounds.
(RECENTLY RE-OPENED) – Open Daily 9-5 Among Nebraska’s most spectacular waterfalls, Snake River Falls tumbles over a 54 foot wide ledge and flows 12 miles to the Niobrara River. When the Snake River is full, it is the largest waterfall in Nebraska by volume. The waterfall is located 23 miles southwest of Valentine on Highway 97. Only 3 miles from Merritt Reservoir. Because access to the falls is on private property, it is not well marked. Your turn will be on the west side of the road about a 1/4 of a mile after the canal crosses the highway. Watch for a windmill, large water tank and a few trees. This will be your cue to turn.
You can view the falls from trails on both sides of the Snake Falls Sportsman’s Club building. (Please note: You can no longer hike down the canyon to the base of the falls.) Admission is only $1.00, and there is a pay box in front of the Sportsman’s Club building. Please be respectful of the property when you visit. Do not cross any barriers. Use provided receptacles for all trash. We are privileged to be able to have this beautiful sight open to public access, and would appreciate every effort to adhere to all posted restrictions.
Note – Limited space for turning around with campers and trailers.
Merritt Reservoir is an oasis amid the giant oasis of the Sandhills. The lake has almost 3,000 acres of water, pure sand beaches, and 73 miles of tree-lined shore. Merritt is one of the top trophy fisheries in the state with dozens of master angler and state records caught here. It is well known for its walleye; however, the lake also boasts largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, perch, crappie, bluegill, northern pike, and muskellunge.
The pure water and beautiful beaches are perfect for boating, swimming, or just hanging out on the beach. There is one resort and some secluded campgrounds on the lake; otherwise the surrounding shores are undeveloped. Hookups are available at several locations, with plenty of primitive camping as well.
One of the Niobrara River Valley’s many waterfalls, Smith Falls is the highest in the state. The spring-fed water drops almost 70 feet and then flows into the Niobrara River. A short hike and a walk across a historic truss bridge that spans the Niobrara River will take you to a walkway to the falls. Nearby you can also find the Jim McAllister Nature Trail—a self- guided hiking trail that is more than a mile long and leads through a portion of the Niobrara River Valley. This area is also known as the “biological crossroads of the Great Plains,” where six distinct biological systems meet.