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Toadstools, Kill Sites, and Dumb Luck Encounters

By eric

I swung through northwestern Nebraska because I really wanted to see the Toadstools. I only spent a day in Nebraska, which isn’t enough time to really see or do much. But as with nearly everywhere else, there was still some cool stuff to see and interesting people to talk to. The best part of the day was the chance meeting with a fellow soldier at a small roadside diner.


The Toadstool Geologic Park in Nebraska is basically the Badlands of Nebraska. It has similar physical features and similar geological markers to the Badlands in both South Dakota and North Dakota. It’s just really odd and cool that everything looks like a bunch of toadstools. In other words, it looks like someone drained an ocean and let you walk around on the bottom on it (again like much of the Badlands). It also was nearly 100 degrees and very dry (Badlands conditions). One of the really interesting aspects of the park was that unlike the Badlands, all of the formations seemed to have matching chromophore patterns. A chromophore is a part of the molecule responsible for it’s color. So one would expect that two rock formations next to each other would have similar chromophores present at similar heights denoting a similar geological history. This was rarely the case in the Badlands. But the geological record in Toadstool Park was very consistent suggesting a much faster (in geological terms) formation compared to the Badlands elsewhere.

Bison Graveyard

Hudson-Meng Bison Kill siteThe Hudson-Meng Bison Kill site is exactly what it sounds like. It is a bison boneyard where the bones of roughly 600 bison lay is a mass grave. The interesting thing about this place is that even after 50+ years of examination, there is no consensus about how or why these 600 or so bison ended up here. In fact, the folks that work here explicitly try to just provide facts and let people come to their own conclusions. One of the typical way that bison are killed is called a Buffalo Jump (which I already talked a bit about here). This was the original theory until they brought in a geologist who told them there wasn’t any cliff high enough in the area to have caused this. Then they started carbon dating bones and found out they were from different time periods. Which is to say that all 600 bison weren’t killed at the same time. After further excavation, they found bones with arrowheads in them and other skeletons with broken hip and leg bones. With all this conflicting information, this dig is still wide open as to what, when, and why this all occurred. But the amount of information available presents a host of interesting possibilities left as an exercise to the visitor.

Random Meeting

dairy_sweetOn my way to the toadstools, I stopped off at a really small (only 3 seats and a kitchen) roadside diner in Crawford, Nebraska called Dairy Sweets. The food was really really good. I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture (of the food, the place, and the people), so I took someone else’s from the internet. Dairy Sweet gets a lot of regular traffic because of it’s proximity to Sturgis, South Dakota for the yearly motorcycle rally. While I was eating, a few other people ordered and sat down at the picnic tables with Charlie and I. One of the couples happen to live in Hawaii because the husband was in the Army. They just happen to be in Nebraska visiting family and popped in to this roadside spot to eat. What makes this random meeting interesting is that we were both in Iraq at the same time, living on the same post in 2004 (with roughly 9 months overlap) less than a mile apart and the first time we meet is 13 years later in a small town in Nebraska while he’s living in Hawaii and I’m living in New York City. It’s a small world…

Chosen Ones

Toadstool Homestead Toadstool Park Bison kill site Bison kill site

The whole gallery of pictures from Nebraska is available on Google Photos.

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