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Outlaw Trail - Nebraska Highway 12


category : Trails
Outlaw Trail - Nebraska Highway 12

The wild west era where famous outlaws, horse thieves, lynch mobs and lawmen ruled is past. Today, along the Outlaw Trail, travelers are greeted by friendly folks as well as plenty of quiet hideaways.


Extending from the South Sioux City area to Valentine, the Outlaw Trail Byway meanders along side the Niobrara and Missouri rivers where steep bluffs and tree-shrouded slopes give way to lush, rolling green hills.


The deep canyons and dense tree cover surrounding the Devil's Nest area created a meeting point and hideout sites for Jesse James and his gang. On the western end of the byway, verdant farmland graduates into the wide open spaces of ranching country and the massive Sandhills of Nebraska.


Travelers find plenty of outdoor fun along the way. About 20 miles northwest of South Sioux City, you can spend a day hiking and trail riding in Ponca State Park, then overnight in cabins at the preserve (402/755-2284).


Northwest from that park for nearly 60 miles to Gavins Point Dam, the Missouri River runs wild and free. This river stretch is a favorite for canoeists. Behind Gavins Point Dam, six recreation areas, with camping, dot the shores of huge Lewis and Clark Lake (402/388-4169).


West of the lake, you can canoe another wild stretch of the Missouri River. Or paddle up the Niobrara River where it pours into the Missouri at Niobrara State Park (420/857-3373).


From the park west, State-12 follows the north bank of the Niobrara. Near Sparks, just east of Valentine, the stream runs through a deep, forested gorge. Canoeists from across the country flock to this breathtaking stretch. Most pull ashore at Smith Falls State Park to cool off in its namesake 95-foot-high falls (420/376-1306). You also can camp along the river in the park. Visitors view other waterfalls along trails at nearby Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (800/658-4024).


History intertwines along this route. Lewis and Clark's Expedition, on the 8,000-mile excursion up the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean navigated through this area.


Nebraska Highway 12 begins at Willis and ends at Valentine. It passes through seven counties: Dakota, Dixon, Cedar, Knox, Boyd, Keya Paha, and Cherry and through the communities of Willis, Ponca, Newcastle, Maskell, Obert, Wynot, Crofton, Niobrara, Verdel, Monowi, Lynch, Bristow, Spencer, Butte, Naper, Mills, Burton, Springview, Sparks, and Valentine.



Come visit us in Ponca, Nebraska

Attractions and Upcoming Events

Historic Downtown Walking Tour

The Ponca Historic District comprises a ten-square-block area that includes the downtown commercial area and a portion of the residential environs. The district contains houses, churches, commercial buildings, and public and

Ponca, NE Tours

Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Salem Church - NHR

Built in 1906, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is one of Nebraska's outstanding examples of Swedish-American Gothic Revival wood church architecture. The building was designed by Swedish architect, Olof Z. Cervin.

Ponca, NE Historic Churches

Chief Standing Bear

Ponca Chief Standing Bear merely wanted to fulfill a promise; instead, he became part of one of the West's most famous trials. The Chief's son, like many of his tribe, had taken ill after being forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma. On his deathbed, the son uttered a final wish:

Ponca, NE Indian Heritage

Adam's House Museum

The Adam's House was built in 1882 by E.D. Ayers, a druggist in Ponca in the nineteenth century. In 1904, the house was purchased by Sam and Della Adams who had farmed in Silvercreek Township for several years prior to purchasing the house. In 1934

Ponca, NE Museums

Highland Oaks Golf Course

Highland Oaks Golf Course lying along the Missouri River's spectacular bluffs, combines a distinctive design with the Ponca State Park'

Ponca, NE Recreation

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Troll Stroll Nature Walk

Opened in 1987, Troll Stroll has become one of Nebraska's most unique and charming tourism attractions. A one-of-a-kind na...