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Remember, No Mardis Gras Beads or Dry Ice While Floating at Niobrara National Scenic River


New rules designed to keep Niobrara National Scenic River safe, enjoyable, and clean. NPS photo.

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.


I applaud the Superintendent for forward leaning practices that consider the impacts to the public as much as impacts to the resource. I think the more units of the service that identify items such as glass and Styrofoam that really have no place on public lands the better. If we are a green agency than lets be a green agency and ban such items from all units of the NPS rather than 1 unit at a time. I'd be curious to find out how many other units have similar bans?

Chief Ranger: Glass and Styrofoam have no place on public lands? Public lands like the NPS lands, Forest Service, BLM, Reclamation, etc.? Grand Staircase Escalante backcountry? The National Mall? The Grand Canyon Lodge? This is neither feasible, nor even reasonable.

It's one thing to ban problem items in a problem area (though I have a big problem with creating more rules and regulations for things that are already covered by the law i.e., No Littering!). However, punishing the entire American public for a few bad apples in a small, high traffic area is completely unreasonable. Each unit is unique - different ecologies, uses, users, and problems... enacting global regulations to solve the problems of a single, small locality is irresponsible, lazy, and overbearing.

Additionally, a federal agency making an effort to be "green" is about that agency's practices. It is unreasonable and unethical for a federal agency to try to impose its philosophy, ethics, and beliefs on individual members of the public. You work for us, not vice versa.

Remember: These lands belong to the American public. You are a servant of the public. We employ you as a steward of our lands, serving both the lands and the public in balance.

Well, I've been kicking around the idea of a canoe trip on the Niobrara early next summer, but I'm thinking I've missed something in my research.

Is this a big spring break hang out? I heard there were some busy times and stretches of the river, but I haven't encountered anything about "exposure" until now. Not that I have a big problem with that kind of scenery, but it's not exactly what I was looking for in a wild and scenic river. I really want to avoid as many people as possible, clothed or not.

I guess they still entice the "natives" with shiny beads and trinkets in Nebraska-is this really that big of a problem or is someone making an issue out of a one time occurance? The out-law on pony kegs is a bit severe also..but with respect that intoxication can lead to foolishness I can just seems that more litter of beer cans, bottles and packaging will be seen. As a former Ranger myself, I've seen it all in the parks and if it's a choice between a hundred beer cans or a few plastic cups-I'll take the latter.

Seems to me that trying to prevent broken bottles, which can lead to serious injury; countless pieces of Styrofoam, which can lead to eyesores and resource problems; and frat-party atmosphere in a unit of the National Park System, all are fairly reasonable.

This is the 21st century. Surely people can be a little responsible, no? I've never understood why folks toss cigarette butts or beer bottles out of their cars as they drive down the highway. Do they do the same in their houses?

AI can understand some of the rules but it seems to be micromanaging which I dislike on principle. Some areas get popular and have todeal with rowdy people. Styrofoam is a problem in water, it floats and doesn't degrade fast.
Mardi Gras beads is just too nanny state. Banning containers is stupid and too controlling. If they have a problem with intoxication then fine those caught and punish the people who are causing the problem instead of saying we need to bring lots of smaller containee and cause more litter. These rule are over reaction to a percieved problem and he needs to find anoither solution.

Dry Ice is not a problem, so what if it explodes on contact, after that it is absorbed and does no harm.
This superintendent is creating a lot of needless rules. He is employing the hassle method to reduce the users of the river. He wants to dissuade the wrong folk from using his park.

At least they aren't trying to ban beer bongs and jello shots like they've done in Texas.

take it easy.less is more

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