As I made my way through northwestern Nebraska towards the Black Hills of South Dakota, I had a choice: either take the easy, paved route, which offered no attractions (at least, nothing marked on the map), or detour onto Toadstool Road, and ride for miles along a gravel road, with the chance to access two worthwhile side trips. No surprise, I went with gravel.
[tmt_info =””]The turnoff to Toadstool Road is about 5 miles north of Crawford, Nebraska, along Nebraska Routes 2 and 71. The intersection is well marked. The side road that leads to Hudson-Meng is also signed appropriately, so you should have no trouble finding your way. Generally, Toadstool Road hugs the railroad tracks all the way to South Dakota, so it’s hard to get lost.[/tmt_info]
Toadstool Road is well maintained, and you can zip along at 40 miles an hour. The only danger can be found in a few areas where extra-large gravel has been spread across the road. Kicking up one of these rocks could do some damage.
At the turn to Hudson-Meng, you cross the railroad tracks and enter the Oglala National Grassland. There is a sign at this intersection that will tell you if Hudson-Meng is open. I was visiting one day after Labor Day (September 1), but to my surprise, the sign said the dig site would be open until September 4th. So, I chose to make the 15 minute (one way) detour.
The road itself is worth the drive. I only spotted one interpretive sign (protected by a fence and a gate!)…
… but the landscape is quite remarkable. It’s obvious erosion is just starting to create something spectacular here.
On its way to the bison kill site, the dirt road circles around, and climbs up, this hill. On the other side…
… is the entrance gate to Hudson Meng. Despite what the sign on the main road had said, several miles away, the dig site was closed for the season. A sign at the locked gate encouraged visitors to walk in, and explore any outdoor exhibits. But, this involved a rather long walk, and from the gate, it appeared that most of the interesting sites…
… were contained inside a large metal building, quite far away.
I spent the drive back to the main (dirt) road trying to convince myself that the scenery was worth the drive, and my time wasn’t wasted. Fortunately, another geologic treat, Toadstool Park, awaited a few miles up the road.
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.