Valentine, Nebraska, is situated in the north-central region of the state, 300 mi/485 km north of North Platte. The Valentine area is home to the Sand Hills, the largest stabilized sand-dune formation in the Western Hemisphere. Recognizing the Sand Hills as dunes isn't easy, because they are covered by grass.

Large cattle ranches predominate in the region (they have to be large because it takes 10-15 acres/4-6 hectares of the dune grasses to support one cow), but there's also an unusual and important concentration of wildlife preserves in the area. The Valentine National Wildlife Refuge is an important migratory stop for waterfowl, including the sandhill crane.

In the town of Valentine, you can get outfitted for a canoe trip down the Niobrara River, a National Scenic River that is considered one of the top 10 canoeing rivers in the U.S. Just to the east of town is Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, which maintains a huge herd of buffalo as well as elk and longhorn cattle. (If you do plan a canoe trip, this is a good place to embark.)

Also on the river is the Niobrara Valley Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy. It contains two different kinds of prairie—both home to waterfowl, coyotes and prairie dogs—which are separated by the river.

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