Homer's Travels: Hiking Nebraska: The Missouri River Trail - Third Times A Charm

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Hiking Nebraska: The Missouri River Trail - Third Times A Charm

I've been trying to do this hike for a four years.  I've tried to do this hike before it was even officially named the Missouri River Trail.

The Missouri River Trail starts in NP Dodge park in north Omaha (north of the Florence area) and heads north, ending at the entrance of the Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge.  This seems like a strange name for a trail where you never see the Missouri River but the trail does parallel the river from a distance.  Until recently the trail was incomplete.  The trail ended less than a mile north of NP Dodge park and then started up again once you left Douglas county.  A year or so ago the missing section was completed allowing you to bike/hike the entire 7.5 mile (12 km) trail without having to ride/walk on the road.

I'd tried to do this walk twice before - both before the last section of trail was completed.  My first attempt was in November 2009.  I got stuck when I passed Hummel Park and realized there were several geocaches in the park.  After passing the park and walking another mile or two I decided to save the entire walk for another day and went back to the park and found nine geocaches.  The second attempt was in April 2011.  I walked until I was about two miles from Boyer Chute and decided to not make the right turn and went straight instead.  This way took me on a loop through farms and horse ranches and, if I remember right, was a very nice spring walk.  Yesterday (Wednesday) I decided to try doing it one more time.  To make it a little more challenging I hiked with my pack and poles.

I parked in the NP Dodge parking lot which is very close to the start of the trail.  The trail is predominantly a biking path so it is a wide concrete/asphalt trail.  The first half mile or so winds through a forested marsh area.  You can hear the croaking of frogs as you walk past the more swampy parts.  The trail then leaves NP Dodge park and follows the road - first John J. Pershing drive, then N River drive then Country Road P51 and finally Country Road 34.  These roads are usually not very busy so the traffic didn't bother me much.  This part of the trail passes Hummel Park (a fairly large public park) and Neale Woods Nature Center (a conservation park affiliated with Fontenelle Forest).  I've been thinking about hiking Neale Woods for a while but haven't managed to do it yet for some unknown reason.  This area covering these two parks has the most elevation along this trail with one part having a 9% grade.

Flower lined trail.
After you pass by Neale Woods the trail runs past farmland, forested hills, and wetlands.  This part of the trail is pretty much flat.  This time of the year parts of the trail were bordered in purple, yellow, white, and fuchsia wildflowers.

Past the wetlands you return to farmland.  The trail turns right following a turn in Country Road P51 and heads straight north.  When I reached about a mile away from Boyer Chute the landscape changed dramatically.  The land changed from cultivated farmland to a rolling desert of low dunes - a result of the 2011 Missouri River floods.

Farmland turned to desert by the Missouri River floods of 2011.
This caught me by surprise.  I knew that Boyer Chute had been temporarily closed due to the floods but I never expected to see sand this far from the river.  The trail  soon disappeared under the sand.  In spots I would say there was more than a foot of sand on the trail.  It had rained a day or so earlier so the sand was still wet.  Walking on it reminded me of walking along Hueneme Beach in California.  The only thing missing was the sound of crashing surf.  It was a bit surreal.

The trail takes a hard right turn and follows Country Road 34 ... or at least I think it does.  The trail was completely covered in a thick layer of sand.  I followed what I thought was the trail until its end at the entrance of Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge.

I stopped for a brief rest stop here before turning around and retracing my steps back to the car.  The total distance turned out to be 15.47 miles (24.9 km).  I was tired when I got back to the car but I felt good - better than I'd anticipated.  I did have a new blister on one of my toes but my feet felt pretty good.  This was the longest hike with a pack since returning from the Camino. It didn't feel like the pack had added much extra stress to my legs.  Definitely a morale booster.

Box Painted Turtle.
There was an animal theme for this hike.  A reptile theme.  Along the way I saw two snakes (one alive, one not), a snapping turtle, and a box painted turtle.  While I did poke the snake with one of my poles I resisted the urge to taunt the snapping turtle.  The Wife says I'm such a little boy.  When I hike, I can't say that I disagree.

UPDATE:  I incorrectly labeled the turtle a box turtle when is should have been labeled a painted turtle.  Thank you Brian for correcting my error.


  1. What a cool hike! I can't believe the pictures of sand, I'm glad you shared them! And I LOVED the turtle, he's so BIG! Excellent news about the pack not being too heavy. That means more freedom to do a happy dance!

    1. Miss McC: It was an intersting hike. Usually when I hike with the pack there is very little enery left for a happy dance. Perhaps a wee jig but not a whole dance :-)

  2. The pictures of the sand-covered trail are pretty amazing! I've gotten better about taunting the wildlife, especially after reading more and more about how the stress can end up killing them. Guilty conscience, here...

  3. Thanks for the writeup, I enjoyed it and plan on visiting some parks along the Missouri today. I wanted to comment however, the turtle you found is definitely not a box turtle, it's a painted turtle!

    1. Brian: Your welcome and thanks for the correction.