Thursday, October 2, 2014

Toadstools and Footprints

In the far northwest corner of Nebraska, in Oglala National Grassland, lies Toadstool Geological Park.

The stark landscape is the remains of an ancient shallow river which, 30 million years ago, supported miniature horses, humpless camels, gigantic tortoises, pigs, and rhinoceroses.

The 'toadstools' were created by wind and water which eroded the soft clay faster than the sandstone rock on top.

There is a poorly marked 1-mile trail that enabled us to roam among the interesting formations.

Now we have seen places like this before, most notably Goblin Valley in Utah and Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico, both of which I loved.  But Toadstool Geologic Park had something that they lacked - fossils!

According to the trail guide, we should have seen bones in the rocks.  Well, either we just don't know what we're looking at, or we weren't looking in the right place.  But we couldn't miss the footprints!

These were made by the rhinoceros of the time, the Subhyracodon.  Here's a closeup.  I wished I had a whisk broom to sweep out the sand.

Across the way was a slipped cap rock with prints from an ancient migration.

It's fascinating to think of the mammals that roamed here 30 million years ago.

The other thing that really made our day was this sighting of an owl in a tree right along the road.  Not the best picture, but you can see his inner eyelids.


  1. That's a very interesting park. Don't think I've heard of it before. I like the owl.

  2. Once again you've found a hidden gem of a park, with neat things to see. I think the picture of the owl was a great shot!

  3. a remarkable owl photo!!
    Love seeing those footprints in the rock.

  4. A great owl picture! The area looks a little like the Badlands we visited in August.

  5. Great short but sweet post, as usual. Had to zoom in for a look at that dusty red lichen too!