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Nebraska Eclipse

Nebraska Field Trip Itinerary - FINAL


Every participant is required to fill out a waiver form. I have also e-mailed one to all participants. Please print this, fill it out, bring it with you, and give to Dave at your first opportunity. It will be easier for all (especially me) if you just do this without my asking again. I will have just a few blank copies, but don’t rely on that.

There will be fees for certain days of this trip. These are detailed below. For any fees totaling over $5, I do not want cash. Instead, make out a personal check to “GSM” and detail what it covers on the memo line. If you are unsure of how long you will be with the trip, you can wait until you decide. However, please give me your payment before you leave, so I don’t have the hassle of tracking it down later and you the hassle of mailing it.

Saturday: $0 (beyond any park admissions)

Sunday: $0 (beyond any park admissions)

Monday: $5

Tuesday: $11

Wednesday: $11

Thursday: $11

Friday: $0 (beyond any park admissions)

Saturday, 8/26: $0 (beyond any park admissions)

Sunday, 8/27: $0 (beyond any park admissions)

For Monday, these fees are to cover meals as a thank you for certain persons who have contributed greatly to make this field trip possible.

For Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, these fees are primarily to cover honoraria and meals for our local geologist leaders.

If you are participating for only a portion of a certain day, expect to pay that full day’s fee.


Day 1 – Saturday, August 19

Leave the Twin Cities in the morning. We will not caravan, but agree to meet at Pipestone.

Possible route St. Paul to Kearney (2 days).

Visit Pipestone National Monument (Minnesota) for three hours. Google Maps shows 3h 38m from St. Paul. A 9 AM departure from the Twin Cities should get us there easily by 1 PM, even with stops (assuming you pack a lunch). At the Monument, we will see the film and self-guide the visitor center, quarries, and main trail for 3 hours, then leave at 4 PM. (Let’s plan to start the self-guided walk to the quarries at 2 PM, and see the film and pipestone carvers before that. Then, in case anyone gets there after 1 PM, we can still all do the walk together.)

I believe the following 17 persons will join us there: DW, DJ, RK, FJ, CW, CP, SK, JF, MN, LK, DP, LP, TS, ES, RT, DE, KE, AB, JN.

I inquired about a guided tour for our group, and received this response:

It’s unlikely that we will be able to provide a guided tour due to low staffing. We do have a very good trail guide that can be taken along on the trail to provide information as you walk. 

We will have demonstrators working with pipestone the day you are here so I would recommend spending some time watching and learning how pipes are crafted. We look forward to having you!

(I had considered visiting Ponca Sate Park, but there won’t be time.)

 Day 1 Saturday overnight: Near Ashfall Fossil Beds in northeast corner of NE

For camping, RK & DW have chosen Niobrara Sate Park, sites #56 & 57. Route from Pipestone to here is 2 h, 52m, so should arrive around 7 PM. (Sunset is 8:38.) These two should accommodate up to 16 persons. It looks like 9 persons (DW, DJ, RK, FJ, CW, SP, SK, JF, MH) will be camping there, so that is sufficient. Since we needed to book 2 nights minimum even though we want only one, the cost with fees is $47.67 per site. That comes out to $10.60/person, payable to RK and DW.

According to Mark Ryan, Niobrara contains some very interesting rock exposures deposited during the Late Cretaceous period.


For those who want to stay in a hotel or motel near Ashfall, the pickings are slim. You might need to stay in Yankton, SD or Vermillion, SD, or even Sioux City, IA. I suggest you look for rooms in that order, or if you find a location you think is better, let us know. (RT, MN, LK, DP, LP are staying at Holiday Inn Express, O'Neill, NE, which is about 35 minutes west of Ashfall, so it means some backtracking. TS & ES are staying at Econolodge in Yankton; got one of last rooms for ~$150) I have also been advised that there is motel lodging in Neligh, located about 45 miles straight south of Niobrara State Park on Highway 14 (closer than both O’Neill and Norfolk) – but who knows if any is available on this date.  Whatever you book, please reply-all as soon as possible and let everyone know the details.

Day 2 – Sunday, August 20

From Niobrara to Ashfall is 37 minutes. We will meet there at when the park opens at 11 AM. Spend a few hours at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

A Nebraska Park Entry Permit is required to enter Ashfall Fossil Beds in addition to the admission fee ($7.00 per person age 3 and older). Purchase a Nebraska Game and Parks Permit now for a faster check in when you arrive.

Also see the August 2017 GSM Newsletter for Mark Ryan’s article on this park.

Your first stop at Ashfall should be the interpretive displays and the fossil preparation laboratory. You are invited to ask the paleontologists about their work. Educational programs are presented on a regular basis. From the Visitor Center, it is but a short stroll to the Hubbard Rhino Barn, where new discoveries continue to be unearthed.


From Ashfall to Kearney is 3h 4m. If we spend 3 hours in Ashfall and leave at 2 PM, we would arrive in Kearney at 5 PM.

Recommendation from Ted Huscher, President of Nebraska Geological Society:  Depending on what route they take, on their way from Ashfall FBSHP to Kearney, they could pass through the east edge of the Sand Hills.  I would suggest the Highway 281 route to I-80 as the Sandhills near Bartlett are pretty good (not huge), they can see where there is both pasture ground in the Sandhill and irrigated cropland in the flatter, in-between area. They will pass through the North Loup, Loup, and Platte Valleys, on their way to Kearney (actually, near the confluence of the Loup and Platte Rivers).

Finding each other Sunday night: Everyone bring a copy of the final participant spreadsheet, which has all cell numbers. Please, I don’t want everyone calling my cell phone, so I can keep my sanity.

Plan A: Use the group text that JF started. That already seems to be working. If that does not work for some reason, I suggest that everyone who is staying in the same hotel contact each other. Once you have done that, decide on the contact person for that hotel, and have that person contact me, who can then relay information.

List of events in Kearney on days near the eclipse: . This site also has a list of viewing locations in town, although most of us plan to head north for the actual viewing.

Hopefully, most of us will be able to meet for dinner in Kearney (although I expect the restaurants to be crowded), so consider packing food for Sunday evening. For those who get in on the early side, scout around and see what look like good possibilities for food. At this web site (, I found this, which might be a good way to go, especially for those who see Dr. Boyajian’s talk (see below):

Kearney Night Market - Enjoy local vendors and food trucks set up in downtown Kearney who will offer a variety of souvenirs and gifts for the solar eclipse. The Kearney Night Market begins at 7 pm and lasts until 10 pm.

Bill Haralson has bought solar viewing glasses for some of you. Since BH will not be on the trip, DW is bringing the glasses. Probably the best opportunity to get those from DW will be Sunday evening if you have not gotten them earlier.

Articles on eclipse viewing safety:


NPR feature on eclipse chasers.

From BA (see Monday below): There is a free lecture in Kearney on the eclipse the night of the 20th: I have no idea if it will be impossibly crowded. Her lecture will be on August 20, 2017 from 7:00pm - 8:30pm at the Merryman Performing Arts Center, 225 W 22nd St, Kearney, NE 68845. Doors open at 6:30. It is free and tickets are not needed.

Day 2 Sunday overnight: Hotels in Kearney – see spreadsheet

Day 3 – Monday, August 21

Here are web sites that track the eclipse’s path:

To whet your appetite, in the February 2017 Newsletter, read Mark Ryan’s recollection of the total solar eclipse he experienced in Mexico in July, 1991. And the May 2017 Newsletter includes Deborah Naffziger’s experience of a total solar eclipse in Winnipeg in February, 1979.

Our primary concern will be finding a good place to view the eclipse, taking weather into account. An open vista would be good, and 10-20 miles north would be good to be closer to the centerline of totality. Ravenna is a possibility.

Bill Allen, who will be staying in Kearney starting Saturday evening (one day earlier than us), plans to scout out a good site for viewing and let us know of it. He might join us for dinner Sunday and/or Monday evening.

Advice from BA: Expect that we will be in a remote location for viewing the eclipse, so pack everything you need for the day, especially water and lunch, and do not expect that there will be bathroom facilities nearby. (We suggest buying the food for the eclipse day in the Twin Cities, so you don’t need to shop for it in Kearney, as Kearney may be flooded with shoppers and diners.) Also plan to consolidate cars that day; some of the cars can stay in the hotel parking lots for the day, so that we do not have an excessively long string of cars. The fewer cars we have, the more mobile we will be. Let’s try for 4 per vehicle, which would still be 10-12 cars. Make sure the night before that your car has enough gas to go 200+ miles, just in case we need to chase clear skies. It is also recommended that we have bug spray in case we stand around for a long time in the middle of nowhere, which is likely.)

BA’s scouting plans:

Here are my initial thoughts about a location for viewing the eclipse. I told you I plan to scout locations on Sunday, August 20th (I arrive in Kearney on the 19th).


My hope is to find a place with a good view to the west, few obstructions or street lights, safe space to pull off the road and not large crowds. 


My plan is to look near Ravenna, since that's on the shadow's centerline - totality will be longer than in Kearney. I've been looking at the Google eclipse map satellite image to make a good guess about what might be a good spot. (The map I'm sure you know well:



On Sunday, I plan to drive along Hwy 2 into Ravenna, then continue west to get away from the irrigated fields. About 13 miles west of Ravenna is the town of Hazard and Hwy 10 runs from Hazard due south to cross the midline. There's nothing there - my hunch there'll be few other eclipse watchers. Whether there's an adequate shoulder to park cars, I have no idea (and won't know until Sunday). But right now, I'm favoring that location. How many cars in the Geo group?


Of course, this all is moot if it's overcast and we have to drive elsewhere. 


I believe first contact is around 11:30 AM CDT. Totality just before 1 PM. (See map below.) I'd plan to be at the viewing site by 10 AM to be safe, which might mean leaving Kearney by 8:30 anticipating possible traffic near Ravenna. At that remote site, folks will need to be prepared with their own food and water and realize that there are no restrooms.


I've ordered the Nebraska DeLorme Atlas so will have good hard-copy maps. Not sure how to give you the exact location I find since I do not have GPS.


Note concerning map: Subtract 5 hours from UT to get CDT.




BA suggests looking at this site before you leave:

There is a wealth of info at this site that eclipse travelers might use - and yes, lots of stuff also for sale. But B&H is very reputable.

Also from BA:

I used to run tours for the Science Museum and we ran several eclipse trips - to Aruba, Turkey, Zimbabwe and South Africa (that last trip got clouded-out); I went only on the Aruba trip and can tell you that totality is mind-boggling. Perhaps you know this already. It also happens so quickly that you've really got to have your spot well-chosen and your plans prepared - it's very easy to be overwhelmed and gawk and not realize you need to look west to see the shadow's approach. I missed that in Aruba.

This from RK: I am hearing from everywhere that the traffic in the eclipse areas is horrific.  Small airports have closed, and are renting out spots to park your vehicle.  Farmers are clearing crops out of their fields and are also renting out spots. 

I would recommend that you bring lots of food and beverages to consume in your car, and gas up before you get close to the area.  Also, leave plenty of time to get to your motel or camping spot. It's going to be totally crazy. This is all the more reason to consolidate into as few cars as possible.

If there is time afterward, we will visit the Archway Museum in Kearney Monday evening.

Day 3 Monday overnight: Hotels in Kearney – see spreadsheet

Day 4 – Tuesday, August 22

Morning: The following four are in the Kearney area, and in totality should take ½ day. Meet at 9 AM at Holiday Inn.

Paul Hanson (Nebraska geologist) will provide an overview of the geology of the Platte River valley, including our most recent mapping and age determinations on alluvium and eolian sand. 

Jake Bruihler (Nebraska geologist) will give an overview of his master’s thesis on Holocene and Pleistocene fills in the Platte valley. Note: Jake moved his talk to Monday afternoon, at the eclipse viewing site.

Jeremy Dillon (Nebraska geologist) will discuss his preliminary results from a late glacial maximum pollen and plant macrofossil site just outside of Kearney.  He will provide core samples and photos. 

Visit a borrow pit nearby that exposes Peoria, Gilman Canyon, and Loveland loess and associated paleosols. 

Lunch in Kearney

Afternoon: Head west to see some features in the North Platte area (led by Paul & Jeremy)

Day 4 Tuesday overnight: North Platte

We are staying at I-80 Lakeside Campground, 3800 Hadley Drive, North Platte, as recommended by Roxy.  These 10 persons are camping: DW, DJ, RK, FJ, CW, CP, SK, JF, MH, SK (5 tents, 2 car campers). If anyone else want to join us there, contact Roxy and Dave for specifics.


Camping info from RK:

Phone number there is 308-534-5077. Talked to the lady at the campground--we will need three tent sites.  They are $15.96 including tax.  That comes to $48 total, or $5/person; we will collect that night. While they don't technically take reservations, she has my name down for three sites. 

I recall that she told me the last time I talked with her that most of the "eclipse campers" will be pulling out on Monday, so she didn't foresee any problem.  She promised not to overbook, so it kind of sounds like a reservation, but not quite.  Anyway, I don't think we will have a problem. All sites are in my name, although I didn't put any money down.  It's just that when you arrive, you will have to give my name, "Joan Knuttila."

We will be camping in tent sites, not an RV sites, so it's primitive camping without electricity.   

See this hotels link that RK sent.

Hotel info from DN:

I managed to make a reservation in North Platte on Tuesday August 22, but the rates are HIGH.

Motel 6 is full. Nothing available. 

We are in Comfort Inn, 308-532-6144 for $129 a night + tax etc.

I was really upset about that high motel rate, so I went out and got a new reservation and cancelled the other. We are now at Knight's Inn in North Platte, 308-532-6650. It's $70 a night plus taxes etc. 

Best Western 308-534-3120 is $139.50 a night.  

Days Inn the person was unintelligible, so I got no rate or anything. 308-532-9321.

Apparently the rates have been way jacked up because of the eclipse, and you won't get anything reasonable until October. Good luck. Hope the rest make reservations ASAP because it seems it will be difficult to get much of anything that week near totality. 

Hotel info from RC:

I found a hotel in North Platte using Staying at Oak Tree Inn Queen Room, free breakfast, free cancellation until midnight Aug 20. Photos make it look decent and good reviews. Total with tax $82.07. When I called the hotel directly, they said they were full. Interesting. must have bought up some rooms. There were other hotels on the website under $100 for these dates.

Day 5 – Wednesday, August 23

Morning through afternoon: Doug Hallum (Nebraska geologist) will lead us to number of water-related stops between North Platte and Big Springs. See details below. Map of route


Evening: Doug Hallum will lead us on a nice 2-3 hour geology hike near Ogallala with White River/Ogallala Group sediments, as well as Broadwater Formation. According to Doug: I recommend this hike, which is a loop, about 2.1 miles, steep in part. There is an optional side trip/backtrack that could add about 1/8th mile. The first geology stop plus side trip are fairly flat with a bit uneven – those unsure of their stamina could easily find their way back to flat ground. There are plenty of places to explore at the station for those not joining the full hike. Good shoes and a supply of fluids make it an enjoyable walk. I’m a fairly hefty guy and can do it routinely, with the aid of a moderate pace, a little heavy breathing, and a walking stick.

Here is Doug’s updated draft itinerary for Wednesday. We’ll start 8:30 AM CDT.

We have a very full day planned

We will begin the day on Central Daylight Time and end on Mountain Daylight Time (gain an hour). (We switch west of Sutherland reservoir.) However, all times below are given in CDT, so if we stick to the schedule, we’ll finish at 19:30 MDT.

Doug will have water available in his vehicle throughout the day.

From Doug: Below is the final itinerary for your visit to west central Nebraska on August 23, 2017. Items marked tentative are subject to bypass depending on time constraints. It will be a good and full day, I’m looking forward to it!

Conservation and Survey Division

Water and Geology Tour 2017: Geological Society of Minnesota

Sponsored by:

West Central Research and Extension Center

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

 (all times CDT)


08:30-10:00                         Welcome/orientation - West Central Research and Extension Center (WCREC) Doug Hallum

(We'll ride a people mover around campus and talk to each specialist below in their respective labs for about 15 minutes each. Doug will narrate on other items of interest while we are moving.)

Plant pathology laboratory - Tony Adesemoye, Asst. Professor

North Platte Memorial Garden/NE Statewide Arboretum

Testing Ag Performance Solutions competition - Daran Rudnick, Asst. Professor

Agroecosystems Entomology Laboratory - Julie Peterson, Asst. Professor

Animal science grow-safe facility

Weed science and pesticide applications laboratory - Greg Kruger, Assoc. Professor


10:00-11:30                         Sutherland Reservoir (10:30)

                                                Paulman Farms - Roric Paulman (11:00)


11:30-12:30                         Sutherland Supply/Korty Canals (12:00), Paxton Syphon (12:20 - tentative)


12:30-13:30                         Lunch – Ole's Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton (order from menu)


13:30-15:30                         Alkali Station/ Alkali Lake (13:50 - tentative)

Groundwater/Surface Water Monitoring at Big Springs (14:30)

California Hill (14:45)


15:30-17:30                         Kingsley Hydro Tour – start at NGPC visitor center - Nate Nielsen

Keystone Diversion (tentative)


17:30-18:30                         Check in at Cedar Point Biological Station & dinner


18:30-20:30                         Sunset geology hike at CPBS


Concerning lunch:

Doug contacted the owner at Ole’s (Tim). We will have a choice of a buffet (said to be huge), or ordering off the menu. We’ll likely have a private dining room. Details from Tim:

I could do a buffet but it would be just as easy and give your guests more options if we just let them order off the menu.  We are used to serving groups of 20-40 under an hour. 

 I would offer 2-3 lunch specials that day which many of your guests will take, then those with special dietary needs can just order gluten-free items.  If some just want a bowl of soup or a tossed salad, that's all they have to order and pay for, presuming everyone is paying on their own.  This would be fine with us if ok with you.  

 I know if you have an hour scheduled you will be fine.  I could even put you in the private dining room if you want.  

 If you do need to have a buffet we can do that.  Thinking something like we served at your office on Monday?   Brisket, Beans, Salad, Brownies, etc. Cost would be about $11 per person


Day 5 Wednesday overnight: Ogallala area

At the Cedar Point Biological station northeast of Ogallala on the south bank of Lake Ogallala, just below Kingsley Dam. A Wednesday evening hike will put us onsite for an overnight stay in Jon’s cabins.

Following 11 have opted for $25 dorm beds at Cedar Point: DW, DJ, RK, FJ, DW, CP, SK, LG, NW, AT, DN.

Note: cell service is pretty sketchy out there but improves if you move to a better spot, sometimes only 10m away.

Dinner: For those staying at Cedar Point: Bring dinner in a cooler for that meal, since we don’t want to delay the start of our hike. Sunset is at 20:30 CDT that day, so we need to start on time to get the best light for photos. See below for possibility of a sack dinner from Ole’s that evening. DW will ask for a count of who wants one want by Monday.

From Tim at Ole’s: If it would help, we could make you a “sack lunch” for your evening meal.   Something like a high quality deli sandwich, salad, dessert, bottle water, plates, condiments, silverware, napkins, etc.   We do this for different groups.  Pack them in a cooler with cold packs, etc.    Cost is about $11 per meal inclusive.  We could have it ready for you to pick up when you are finished with lunch. 

For those staying in Ogallala: Be at the Biological Station no later than 18:30 CDT if you want to join the walk. You can eat before or after at your choice. If you choose not to join the walk, be sure you let us know that day so we will not wait for you.

Especially note #3 below about bringing linens, towel, and pillow.

Contact: Jon Garbisch

Here are details:

  1. What is cost for cabins and apartments?

Cost is per person/bed.  We have two rates in off season:  $25/person in the upscale units (apartments) and $15/person in the regular student cabins.

  1. How many beds does each unit have?

The faculty/upscale units (apartments) have AC and are limited to a pair of  twin beds…  a private bath and a small work area… I believe I have 4 units open… one of those has a single full sized bed.  I have two other units with a semi-private bath and AC/heat (6 twin XL beds) … and two more that have a semi-private bath but just a ceiling fan (6 twin XL… same as a bunk).

The student cabins have 6 beds each and MOST share the central wash house…  there are 10 units for 60 people… these are large wooden tents with electricity, a big ceiling fan and lights.

  1. I recall there is no bedding for cabins or apartments. Do you think it would work to just roll a sleeping bag out over each bed/cot? If we did bring bedding, what would we need?

YES, that would be a good plan.  Roll out a sleeping bag or bring basic twin XL bedding except for a couple of fullsize units.  Towels, pillows, assorted sundries, etc., you need to bring.

  1. Are there any kind of kitchen facilities in either the cabins or the apartments?

Unfortunately our kitchen facilities will be closed then… the housing units have no kitchens…  though some have a small dorm fridge….  we are all student staffed and the 21st is the first day of class back in Lincoln.  I could maybe let you as a group use our grill and the dining hall…  that includes water/ice maker, coffee maker, a single commercial fridge, a sink, tables and chairs.  The kitchen portion wouldn’t be available as Nebraska code doesn’t allow mixed use.

Doug added: If you are interested in grilling at Cedar Point, I will be happy to bring paper plates, cups, trash bags etc… we can hike before or after eating. I will also have water available in my vehicle throughout the day.

  1. Anything else we should know that I did not know to ask?

Doug asked about our canoes… 4 or 5 will be on the bank of Lake Ogallala; they are there to be used. 

I’ve attached a few maps…  the back road in from the east is usually not a good option especially if it rains as the road is clay and slick… there are no guard rails along the canal.  Google persists in routing people that way though.  The front gate is closed with a chain and multiple locks that hooks on the back side…. IT may APEAR to be locked… it will not be when you arrive.

If Cedar Point doesn’t work for everyone, it is only about 7-8 miles into Ogallala, where there are several hotels. (RC has already booked at Days Inn in Ogallala: I just booked using Days Inn in Ogallala. Free Breakfast and free cancellation until midnight Aug 21. Queen Room with tax $85.50.

Day 6 – Thursday, August 24


Paul Hanson will lead us on a half-day driving tour of the Sandhills. Having a local guide for this will be very valuable, as it is a large area which we can best appreciate if someone leads us to its jewels.

Description from Paul:

On the Sand Hills portion we will probably be driving back to North Platte and up to the area around Thedford.  The stop in the Sand Hills will be an exposure that is unfortunately behind a barbed wire fence. I expect we’ll play it by ear on Wednesday am.  We could have 2-3 stops, but it will be mostly driving.  The stops are not long walks, one is road-side; the other is about 0.5 miles one way.  The latter will be optional depending on timing. 


Possible route Thedford to Chadron (1.5 days)


1.       We will not have local geologists as guides for the rest of the trip, except perhaps park rangers.


2.       We won’t have time for everything listed for Thursday/Friday; we’ll need to pick and choose.


3.       Doug Hallum’s comments on these sites are shown in orange.


Petrified Wood Gallery, Ogallala



Courthouse and Jail Rocks, Bridgeport (skipped)


Carhenge near Alliance

Recent NPR feature on the eclipse at Carhenge J

FYI: No bathrooms at Carhenge.

Doug: Never stopped, but drove by a few times – others visited on a watershed tour I organized and they enjoyed it.

ChImney Rock National Historic Site, Bayard (skipped)


North Platte NWR (skipped)

Doug: Never been here, but drove by a few times


Day 6 Thursday overnight: Scottsbluff


(I have contacted the potential campers concerning this separately.) RK has called about camp sites for those interested in camping at Lake Minatare SRA, about 20 minutes northeast of Scottsbluff. (This looked more scenic and quieter than camping options in town, even though a bit less convenient.)

RK: Here's what we know about Lake Minatare SRA for Thursday, 8/24:

Tent sites accommodate 2 tents.  Therefore, we will need two sites.  I hope Sherry will be able to park at one of them.

Tent sites cost $8 each. They are not reservable.

If they are filled up when we arrive, we can camp on their beach sites, which are sand (some level, some not) and which never fill up. Even if that is filled up, we can call the fairgrounds at 308-623-1828 and they might be able to accommodate us.

So, I think we are OK for this night.


DN: I booked at Super8 in Scottsbluff Thursday night for $95.19 (2 queen beds). The Days Inn in Scottsbluff only had 1 room left, so I went where others can stay also. I’m looking for a roommate.

Note from DN: The municipality of Scottsbluff has changed the city tax in the area from 12 % to 16 %. This change applies to all stays after August 1st. And I expect it will go down in the fall. Not a really big deal, but hey, if I can save a few bucks... Others should also know about this. I got it in an email from 


Day 7 – Friday, August 25

Scotts Bluff N M

Doug: Recommend – Steve Sibray is a great guide for this and anything relating to the geology/hydrogeology in western Nebraska. The monument has a good overview of geology, Oregon Trail, canals, ag in the NP valley. The downside: park service covered some geology with cheesy concrete.

Agate Fossil Beds N M

Doug: Recommend – It has a visitor center and two hiking trails: the main trail is about 3 miles to University and Carnegie Hills (from visitor center lot) and well groomed. The Daemonelix Trail is about 1 mile (north of River Road just off Hwy 29), also well groomed. My wife and I did the short trail years ago and liked it a lot – we plan to go back and complete the other.


Fort Robinson S P (and Crawford) (skipped)

Note: Has cabins and camping.

Doug: Recommend strongly, but you won’t be able to see everything – Fort Robinson has the Trailside Museum with clash of the mammoths and an incredible specimen of blue agate (Nebraska state gemstone), excellent vistas, geology, historic events, Northern Cheyenne memorial (off Hwy 20), many trails, Soldier Creek Wilderness, etc… You could spend a week here.

The Crow Butte mine (roll front uranium) southeast of Crawford is interesting as well. For train enthusiasts: the BNSF line runs through Crawford and the only railroad tunnel in Nebraska is south of Crawford where the line climbs the pine ridge.


Toadstool Geological Park (and Ogalala National Grassland) – a must see

Doug: For my money, this is the “must see” in western NE (I love this corner of the state and spend much of my vacation time here) – do the Toadstool loop hike at least. Those venturing deeper into the badland get a more intimate sense of the landscape. You can hike through the park and adjacent grassland to the Hudson-Meng bison kill site on a four mile trail. Those unable to handle the terrain/distance can drive around to pick up any through hikers. Be sure to stop and see Mike at the High Plains Homestead for a meal, lodging (stars are incredible and distant cities visible), cold drink/dessert, and/or a story or two.


Chadron S P (and Chadron)

Doug: Nice park. My wife and I rent a cabin here as a base camp just about every year (Cabins are a bit cheaper than Fort Robinson, and pet-friendly). Hiking trail has a nice overlook that allows a distant view of the Black Hills when it’s clear (not often). Pine ridge has lots of trails and public land.

The Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center on the Chadron State College Campus if a worthwhile stop that I found very informative.


Museum of the Fur Trade (skipped)

Doug: I had visited the area several years before actually stopping here; it is better than I had expected. I found a number of local/regional history books for my library. A worthwhile stop if you have time.


Day 7 Friday overnight: Chadron: Chadron State Park (has 17 primitive camping sites & 22 cabins)

Camping at Chadron S P: There is primitive camping, not reservable, at $13/night.  3 tents are allowed at each site, and 3 vehicles. If that were filled when we arrive, there's a National Forest Campground not far away called Red Cloud Campground. This is the option that RK & DW have chosen.

Cabins at Chadron S P: Two night minimum stay, although we could eat the cost of the second night. Dave & Roxy have decided to forgo this, as too complicated/expensive. However, if there are some available when we arrive, some of us might decide on this option.

Camping at Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands - Red Cloud Campground: This is a fee campground from mid-May to mid-November, for $5.00 per night.  Fee envelopes and a collection box are provided near the entrance. No water available, but we could carry enough in our van for coffee, instant oatmeal, and a few dishes.  We always carry water jugs in our van.  If everyone filled up their jugs, this would be a nice spot to stay as well.

Hotels are in Chadron. DN: I made a reservation for Chadron Inn and Suites, AKA Motel 6 Chadron, NE Friday night 8/25. One queen one/two persons $73.07. Trying to do it direct was not successful as the person was not good with English.


Day 8 – Saturday, August 26

Possible route Chadron, NE to St. Paul, MN (2 days)

Drive through Badlands National Park (South Dakota), with perhaps a few short hikes.

Day 8 Saturday overnight: TBD – somewhere along I-90 in South Dakota, perhaps Mitchell.

Day 9 – Sunday, August 27

Visit Corn Palace.


Visit Palisades State Park (South Dakota). (skipped)


Lunch in St. Peter, MN.


Day 9 Sunday overnight: HOME!