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073 MISSOURI - RIVER OF DISCOVERY
Niobrara State Park, Nebraska. In a scene reminiscent of the wild Missouri River a century ago, a broad river reveals islands, chutes, and backwaters cradled by river bluff forest, rumpled prairie hills and a towering cloudscape. Forever steeped in our nation's history by Lewis and Clark's epic journey two centuries ago, the Missouri River once flowed unimpeded across the northern Great Plains from its source high in the Montana Rockies to its confluence with the Mississippi River. Then, descriptions of prairie wildlife along its flanks rivaled that of Africa's Serengeti, including huge herds of bison, elk, pronghorn and deer that were preyed upon by large predators like wolves and grizzlies. Today, due to a history of dam, diversion and channelization, there are only a few unchannelized sections that may still conjure up daydreams of the once wild Missouri River. One of these places exists in northeastern Nebraska near Niobrara State Park, where Lewis and Clark first documented for modern science prairie dogs and pronghorns, two species native to the Plains.