Photo of the Week – March 9, 2012

Toadstool Geologic Park is a small public area hidden away in the northwestern corner of Nebraska.  The site is one of the most scenic in Nebraska, but is remote enough that relatively few people visit.  Those who do make the trip can see tracks and fossils of animals that lived in the area 30 million years ago, including camels, rhinos, and others.

Toadstool Geologic Park is part of the Ogalala National Grasslands, administered by the U.S. Forest Service.  The grasslands would be called shortgrass prairie by most of us, but they are technically part of the “shale mixed-grass prairie – characterized by cool season grasses such as western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, and needle-and-thread.  They and other plants, including sego lilies, rabbitbrush, and leafy musineon, grow in dry clay soils that only receive an average about 10-15 inches of rain per year.

One of the reasons I love Nebraska is the variety of landscapes found in the state.  I can travel from the oak woodlands and tallgrass prairies of eastern Nebraska to a place like Toadstool Park in a single day of driving.

There’s an awful lot to explore in between too, and I feel like I’m just getting started.


About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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6 Responses to Photo of the Week – March 9, 2012

  1. Thanks for sharing your “secret”, Chris. This looks like a great place to visit.

  2. Barb Mikulicz says:

    This does look like a NE I’ve never imagined. What’s your say on the Prairie Dog law that I hear recently passed?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      The prairie dog issue is a tough one. Too many people on the two extremes that won’t recognize the validity of the other perspective. Prairie dogs are not vermin that need to be exterminated. At the same time, they can cause economic hardships to ranchers. Any real solution to the way we deal with prairie dogs is going to have to meld those two into a compromise. That doesn’t seem likely in the near future.

  3. Mel says:

    It’s a very un-Nebraska looking place if all you’ve seen are the flat prairies. There’s a trail that takes you up and through the formations and as Chris says, you will probably have the place to yourself. We did get caught in one of the infrequent rainstorms and that clay soil gets very slippery when wet!

  4. Natalie Goergen says:

    Toadstool is one my favorite places I’ve ever visited. I have been camping there twice. Hearing the coyotes howl at night is a real treat. I can not wait to go back! It is a shame that more Nebraskans don’t know about Toadstool Park. It almost looks otherworldly.

  5. Mark Godfrey says:

    Very nice photo of a wonderful place, thanks.


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