Often referred to as the "biological crossroads of the Great Plains," the 30-mile stretch of Niobrara River east of Valentine, in which Smith Falls is located, is of great biological importance. Along the Niobrara, the ranges of closely related species of eastern and western woodland birds overlap, and some, like flickers, buntings, orioles and grosbeaks, hybridize much a big-toothed and quaking aspens once did. In the deciduous forests, an isolated subspecies of eastern woodrats is found 400 miles from its nearest relatives in eastern Kansas. In addition to the northern birch community found in the spring-branch canyons, four other distinct plant communities and their respective compliments of animal life merge there. Along the dry, sun-washed north valley wall, the Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine forest reaches its easternmost limit. Along the shaded, moist south valley wall, eastern deciduous forests of basswood, ironwood, black walnut and elm reach their westernmost limit. Mixed grass prairie is found on tablelands north of the river and on the north valley slope. And, to the south of the valley, is Sandhills prairie. In this relatively short stretch of Niobrara River Valley, 160 species of plants and animals are at the very edge of their distribution.
Address: 15 miles East of Valentine
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