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Guide to the Good Life: Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park
Toadstool Geologic Park
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Nebraska has so many interesting places to visit. Toadstool Geologic Park in Northwest Nebraska is just one of those stops.

For this segment of Guide to the Good Life I visited to share some views from this very unusual site in a very remote location.

It was back in the late 1800's when some of the first settlers to the area saw mushroom shaped rocks. They called them toadstools and the name stuck.

"At one time probably when it was first named there were a lot bigger rocks that were on the pedestals but over time those pedestals eroded away and the rocks slid off. The thing I like about Toadstool is it is different every time whether it is the weather or once you get off the trail and start hiking you are going to see something different every time you go up there because the landscape is changing or maybe you were looking to the left and you didn't this cool feature off to the right," said Michael Watts the Resource Specialist and Recreation on the Pine Ridge Ranger District.

As to how these formed it is because there is much harder sandstone over softer clay. Over time the clay erodes away a whole lot more quickly.

"The harder rocks are stacked on top of the clay type soil and so it gets eroded around the base of that rock and then eventually you are left with a pedestal there holding that rock up. It is a pretty slow process. It could take hundreds or maybe thousands of years," said Watts.

This year has been unusually busy at Toadstool Geologic Park. The pandemic has caused many Nebraskans and adjacent state visitors to search out remote locations to enjoy.

Just a couple of the visitors to the site on the day I was there were from much further away though.

Jordan and Jeff Campbell are two very experienced travel bloggers from the east coast.

"I have been to all 50 states and 52 countries and I still love the U.S. and love to get out and try and find lesser known spots to appreciate and this is great. You can literally walk a half a mile in and you feel like you are on another planet. This is kind of a prairie desert. It is very cool," said Jordan Campbell from the site Global Debauchery.

"You get a pretty good idea of the badlands, the grasslands you also get to hike through some canyons," said Watts.

Watts says there are multiple trails on the 1000 acre site. A mile loop trail, a five mile loop and another that takes you to the Hudson Meng Research Center about three miles away.

"At one time millions of years ago this used to be a lot wetter area. The proof of that is in the fossils that can be found around here. There is also evidence of big volcanic eruptions too when you look at some of these hillsides especially when the sun is just right you will see a layer of white and that is white ash," said Watts.

Just some of the fossils they have found are land tortoises, and others that looked much like a present day pigs, horses and rhinos.

For the most part though, those fossils are completely left in place and not removed from the site.

"You know at one time a lot of this land was settled but they couldn't make a go of it and sold the land back to the government and that is how the National Grasslands were created," said Watts.

"I think it is just appreciating the landscape here and taking a walk around and listening to silence. I am also from (Washington) D.C.," said Campbell with a laugh.

If you are planning a visit to Northwest Nebraska consider taking a trip to a different world and see the unusual sites at Toadstool Park.

If you are interested in learning more about Toadstool Park near Crawford you can click this link.

Click the video below for some additional clips and interviews from the site.

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