Planning to spend some time paddling at Niobrara National Scenic River this summer? Don't forget your sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, and PFD. Oh, and you probably should leave the Mardi Gras beads, dry ice, and Styrofoam cups and coolers at home.
In a bid to keep the Niobrara River clean and safe, Superintendent Dan Foster is getting ready to add some rules that he expects paddlers and floaters to obey. They include a ban against the beads, the dry ice, Styrofoam, and containers, such as Pony kegs, that hold more than 1 gallon of your favorite alcoholic beverage on the 76 miles of river that flow through the national scenic river landscape.
Public comment on the new rules is being taken through Tuesday, May 26, and the superintendent hopes to have them take effect June 1.
The problem with the beads, you see, is that in some places they are used as an enticement to get folks to disrobe. And often they are tossed to those who disrobe. On a river setting, too often such tosses wind up in the water, where beads can pose a problem as litter and wildlife, says the superintendent. They create other problems as well, he notes.
The possession or distribution of Mardi Gras-style bead necklaces or similar paraphernalia intended to cause behavior associated with disorderly conduct on the river is prohibited, reads a section of the superintendent's compendium, which is used to implement these new rules. Such inappropriate behavior includes, but is not limited to, fighting, solicitation of nudity, enhancing alcohol use (especially among under-aged visitors), obscene language and creating a public nuisance.
Styrofoam also can quickly turn into litter when it flies out of a boat.
As for dry ice, it tends to explode when tossed into water.
These dry ice bombs create litter debris, disturb fish and wildlife, create hazardous situations, hinder the enjoyment and experience of other park visitors and could possibly cause injury to park visitors, reads the compendium.
In another move aimed at improving visitor safety and enjoyment as well as resource protection, Superintendent Foster wants to limit the number of watercraft that can be lashed together.
The practice of lashing or tying together watercraft is limited to a maximum group size of ten people on individual tubes (less than 6 feet in diameter) allowed to be secured together in one flotilla, reads the compendium. No more than five watercraft (canoes, kayaks, or tubes less than 6 feet in diameter) in any combination may be fastened together. Rafts may not be secured to any other vessels. A maximum of three giant tubes (greater than or equal to 6 feet in diameter) may be tied together, but not to any other canoes, kayaks, or smaller tubes.
Additionally, the compendium bans Jet skis or other motorized crafts on the national scenic river, outlaws the use of motor vehicles along the Niobrara's shorelines and sandbars, prohibits the use of horses or pack animals by outfitters, and bans the use of stock tanks, normally used to water livestock, as watercraft.
While these rules seem reasonable, some outfitters are pushing back. Outfitter Rich Mercure, who operates the Little Outlaw operation, agrees glass and Styrofoam shouldn't be allowed on the river, but told the Lincoln Journal Star that he didn't think violators should be ticketed. He also took exception to the ban on stock tanks, saying they're allowed on other rivers in Nebraska.