Vacation at Toadstool Geologic Park

One of the best tourist stops in Nebraska gets very few visitors (which doesn’t hurt its value as a site I like to visit).  Toadstool Geologic Park is in the northern panhandle of Nebraska, north of the town of Crawford.  We stopped there on a short family vacation trip this week and enjoyed hiking and camping in relative solitude.  The landscape is otherworldly and beautiful, and full of interesting plants and rock formations.  The geology and paleontology of the park are legendary, but I spent most of my time (of course) looking at bugs and flowers.  The boys and Kim, however, hadn’t been to the park before and really liked the self-guided tour that showcases rock formations, volcanic ash deposits, ancient rhino footprints, and much more.

After leaving Toadstool this morning, we cut north for a brief stop at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.  Caves and I don’t get along well (I’m an open skies person, myself), so while the rest of the family is down in a dark closed-in space, I figured I’d knock out a quick blog post.  Apologies for not including more detail, but I didn’t have a lot of time!

The landscape of Toadstool Geologic Park is rugged and gorgeous.

Wildflowers were putting on a real show while we were there, including white beardtongue (Penstemon albidus).

White penstemon was pretty, but crested beardtongue (Penstemon eriantherus) was even more spectacular.

This is, I think, leafy musineon (Musineon divaricatum), growing on rocky flats, surrounded by rock formations.

Large rocks suspended on eroding soils were common across the park.

Alkali milkvetch (Astragalus racemosus) was growing all over the place, and seemed to be particularly attractive to bumble bees.

The mud at the bottom of the ephemeral stream courses was drying out after recent rains, and there were some fascinating reticulated patterns here and there.

The landscape was no less impressive after dark, especially when illuminated by a crescent moon.

We saw a lot of these evening primroses (I think they are gumbo-lily – Oenothera caespitosa) seemed to be able to grow in almost no soil, along with many other plants in the park.