Toadstool Geologic Park – Oglala National Grassland


Surprise! The Badlands begin before you get to South Dakota.  Toadstool Geologic park, in Nebraska’s northwestern corner, provides a nice preview of what lies ahead in the expansive badlands to the north.

Toadstool Geologic Park is about a mile off Toadstool Road, a long dirt road that splits off from Nebraska Route 2/71 north of Crawford, Nebraska.  You can read more about Toadstool Road on the previous page.  While it can be rough, it is passable in almost any vehicle.  Signs are posted at all the appropriate places, so if you watch for them, you won’t get lost.

From the parking area at Toadstool Geologic Park, you can’t see much of the exciting landscape.  A few arid hills pop up from the flat landscape of the Oglala National Grasslands.  Cows moo to the north, and towards the west…

… there’s a one-mile loop trail, that leads to some of the park’s most interesting formations.

You can pick up a guide pamphlet at the start of the trail.  The guide corresponds with several numbered posts along the trail. I referenced my copy of the guide once or twice, then put it away.  While it had good information in it, the geology lesson wasn’t nearly as interesting as the actual geology, that was spread out all around me.

The trail starts off slow at first…

… taking you past a few more beautifully-eroded hills.

When you reach the first patch of rocks, the trail starts to get more interesting.

The trail stays flat through this portion…

… winding past some oddly-angled rocks.  About halfway through…

The trail changes, and begins to climb through a more-interesting field of oddly-eroded hills.

It wasn’t until I found myself in the middle of this part of the trail, that I really started enjoying myself.  (In other words, don’t get discouraged by the first part of the trail.)

This is the part of the trail where you get to see those “toadstools” up close…

… and since this part of the trail rises up above the rest of the landscape, you get a great view looking at the surrounding plains (which at this spot, are anything but plain).

Back at the parking area, there’s one more attraction to see.  The Forest Service (which administers this entire area) has re-built an old sod house.

You’re free to go inside, where you can check out a unique view on the Toadstool badlands.

There is a small fee for parking at Toadstool Geologic Park — I think it was $3, payable at a self-pay envelope drop.  As always, make sure you carry plenty of dollar bills, since there’s no one out here that can break a 20.  Of course it’s also quite unlikely that a park ranger will wander through this remote area, at exactly the same time as your visit.

It’s possible you will find some fossils in the park.  It is illegal to remove them, so leave them where you found them.

Once you leave Toadstool Park, keep driving north on Toadstool Road.  You’ll eventually hit pavement again, just before Nebraska Route 2/71 crosses the state line into South Dakota, turning into Route 71.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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