Post 1103: the Nebraska Pine Ridge

I took a short trip up to Chadron State Park this morning. It’s close (about 52 miles/84 kilometers) and today is a lovely day for a little trip. 

Chadron State Park is Nebraska's first state park. It was established in 1921.

Chadron State Park is Nebraska’s first state park. It was established in 1921.

It's historic and well-maintained for day trippers, casual campers, serious campers, picnickers, and people who enjoy a day in the outdooors.

It’s historic and well-maintained for day trippers, casual campers, serious campers, picnickers, and people who enjoy a day in the outdooors.

The little lake just inside the park has paddleboats. It is a lovely way to spend part of the day!

The little lake just inside the park has paddleboats. It is a lovely way to spend part of the day!

The scenic drive starts just a short ways past the main gate.

The scenic drive starts just a short ways past the main gate. Down here, though, concessionaires and picnic facilities are available. 

The predominent tree is the ponderosa pine. It is well-established in the Pine Ridge area.

The predominent tree is the ponderosa pine. It is well-established in the Pine Ridge area.

Low rainfall and extreme weather make for slow growth of these ponderosa pines.

Low rainfall and extreme weather make for slow growth of these ponderosa pines.

"Nebraska is flat."

“Nebraska is flat and boring.”

The rugged landscape of this part of Nebraska is a major attraction for outdoors activities.

The rugged landscape of this part of Nebraska is a major attraction for outdoors activities.

Find the deer!

Find the deer!

There are scenic drives through the park, cabins, campgrounds, and many amenities for the less rugged camper.

There are scenic drives through the park, cabins, campgrounds, and many amenities for the less rugged camper.

A major fire some years ago burnt a portion of the park. Lewis woodpeckers, rare to Nebraska, came to the dead trees to live and to harvest insects in the dead wood.

A major fire some years ago burnt a portion of the park. Lewis woodpeckers, rare to Nebraska, came to the dead trees to live and to harvest insects in the dead wood. One flew over my car when I passed this point.

Time to back up and leave the park!

Time to back up and leave the park overlook!

Back to the flatlands by Alliance...lots of corn grown around here.

Back to the flatlands north of Alliance…lots of corn grown around here.

As always, Andy (top) and Dougy waited patiently for me to return home. (Nothing was torn up, so I presume they were good boys!)

73016 andy and dougy

These two videos by other people give you a further look at the park and the 2012 fire in the park and area south of Chadron, Nebraska. Though one is saddened to see the effects of such fires, the fires (often started by lightning) open up the habitat, create new food and living opportunities for animals and birds that might not have been there before, and help the ponderosa pine cones to shed seeds for the next generation of seedlings. If scary and destructive, forest fires are beneficial in the long term.

 

 

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36 thoughts on “Post 1103: the Nebraska Pine Ridge

  1. That is a beautiful park! Too bad the boys didn’t get to go on the road trip…. BTW, I looked at the photo gallery before reading the text & am proud to announce that today, I guessed which was which correctly.

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  2. I love your tours and this was really a treat for someone who no longer gets to travel. That park is totally my kind of place. Woodpeckers are on my favorires list so I love that a rarer bird found a home there. The boys must indeed have been good, the house looks spotless!

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    • Nebraska is a great place to bird as it is on the Central Flyway and there are many resources here for travelling birds. The Plate River hosts the crane migrations, for example, and that is quite a treat to witness! We have eastern and western varieties of birds, with some hybridization of species, which makes ID’ing birds interesting! (I was a vice president of the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union back in the 1980s when I was able to get around much better, and am proud to say I was the first person to photo document a phainopepla in Nebraska records, which go back to Lewis and Clarke’s expedition.)

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    • I enjoy doing them since I tend to stay inside and out of the sun these days. I can do them from my car and edit the photos on PhotoShop to get rid of car features.

      Anyway, I enjoy woodpeckers myself. This was the first place I ever saw the Lewis woodpecker, which had only barely started to occur there back in the 1980s in another burn. Today, then, was the most recent!

      Nebraska is a great birding state because it is on the Central Flyway. We have Eastern and Western species in the state if you go across it.

      I was a vice president of the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union in the late 1980s, when I was more able to get around, and we had events all over the state twice a year to assure we saw the greatest number of species.

      The most amazing birding event is the annual crane migration across the Platte.

      The most amazing personal bird sighting for me was a phainopepla in 1980. It was the first and only documented (photo) occurrence of that bird in Nebraska history going back to the Lewis and Clarke Expedition, and I’m proud to say I was the lucky person who had it show up over a two month period in my backyard!

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    • I’m glad you enjoy them! I probably would stay inside and not do much if i didn’t make occasions like this morning to go out and experience what’s here to see and do.

      The Lewis Woodpecker first showed up in the Chadron area at another burn site in Chadron State Park in the early 1980s. As far as I can recall, this is the sole place you can see them in Nebraska.

      The house is spotless in the photo because of judicious use of PhotoShop! LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Nebraska is flat and boring.”

    I had to laugh when I read that. Yes, if a person drives strictly along I-80 he’ll come away with that impression: but I was fortunate enough to live in the Midwest and got to see places like Pine Ridge. (We missed Chadron State Park, unfortunately. If I ever return to Nebraska I’ll make sure I’ll go.) Birding is tops out there too, I agree. We saw sandhill cranes, geese, and even pelicans along the North Platte River. I was irate I didn’t have a zoom lens on my camera at the time; there were so many great shots that I missed.

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    • Yes, birding along the Platte is great! Wildcat Audubon (primarily people from Scottsbluff-Gering area) sponsors field trips during the year, both for members and people who enjoy going out with local birders who know where to look for specific birds. Best of all, they sometimes get special permission to go into areas not generally open to the public or that are closed after certain hours. Many are also members of Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union, which sponsors its own field trips twice a year. The best part of membership in NOU is you meet birders from the region who can enhance your birding trips by pointing out excellent places to bird during various seasons. It sounds like you may have made contact with some of those people or just have good birding sense! I know what you mean about telephoto lenses! I’ve had to use stealth to get photos in past because I didn’t have big enough telephotos to capture something I could bring in with my binoculars or spotting scope. North Platte (the town) offers some really super birding opportunities along the Platte River, with hybrids of Eastern and Western subspecies of different birds tossed in to complicate IDing birds by plumage or song.

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    • Look again.She’s slightly above center, sideways, with her head facing right. She’s looking out at you. I probably should be a good guy and post the picture with the deer circled!

      I really like that safety feature. I think it is pretty much standard on most modern cars, and it’s supposed to become standard in the next year, I believe. My VW is a 2016 model. The less fancy version of it comes without the feature, as I recall, but I have a middle of the lot version that lacks a couple other features that would enhance safety, the lane drift business, the adaptive cruise control feature, and the feature where it brakes automatically if you get too close to something in front of you.

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      • Post 1105 has the photo in a closer look at the spot just where the deer is, and I think most people should be able to see the deer now. It is amazing how well they can conceal themselves in the brush!

        Yes, cars are amazing bits of technology now! In the 1930s, rear view mirrors were an option, for example, as were heaters.

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  4. Great photos, that looks like a beautiful place. Very interesting woodpecker, I checked it out and it doesn’t look like the standard hairy or downy ones around here.

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    • It’s a beautiful bird! We have the downy, hairy, and red-headed woodpeckers here in Western Nebraska, along with the Lewis’s woodpecker in that small part of the Northwest Panhandle. In Central and Eastern Nebraska, they also have the red=bellied woodpecker.

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  5. I liked the armchair tour. The state park looked lonely, foreboding, and cold. There were lots of patched cracks in the road, indicting extremes in temperature in a harsh climate. Reminds me of living in Minnesota. Burrrrrr.

    If you come to Florida, the Everglades will look flat, swampy and you’ll need to bring the bug spray and sun screen.. That’s why most people tend to visit in the late fall or early spring. 🙂

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    • Actualluy, it is a popular place to be! People like to hike along the paved roads, jog. I was up there very early in the morning, which is why it looks deserted. Campers and people in the cabins hadn’t begun their days beyond getting up and getting breakfast. I saw a couple people getting paddleboats, several walking and jogging, and a few vehicles going places. The road is built on sandstone, which may not be the best base, but the seams also help keep traffic down to 20 mph, the posted limit. I doubt that was the intent, but that’s the effect they get. (Speaking as someone with a zippy German car, that twisty road is a real temptation to try, um, “enthusiastic driving”!) The video was shot in May, before the park was at its best. It was already 80+ at 8:00 AM when I was up there yesterday.

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      • Thanks for the explanation. It looked so deserted.

        I loved this explanation about when and how the video was made.

        You have a lot of knowledge about the area. If you have any other armchair tours you’d like to share, I’m all *here’s*. 🙂

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      • There are other places in the area that are of historic interest I should include in the series. The Oregon Trail and other migration routes followed the Platte River through Nebraska, and you can see wagon ruts in the ground in places close to where I live. (Within a few minutes’ drive, that is.) Wounded Knee and Ft. Robinson, where Crazy Horse was killed, are short drives from here. A bit more than two hours’ drive brings one to Mt. Rushmore, and a bit closer is the Crazy Horse monument outside of Custer . SD. That’s for starters!

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      • I’ll periodically do them because I need to get out of the house and town once in awhile. These are easy for me to do, are fun, and I’ve had many positive comments from readers of the blog about them. Of course, now that I have that new VW Golf Sportwagen TSI, driving to these places is a lot of fun, too! It’s a great little car, zippy, and fun to drive.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Nebraska seems so beautiful. Here in Australia a lot of the native species are adapted to what we call bush fires (forest fires) some birds even carry embers to new places to drive insects out. Unfortunately introduced species and buildings have made our fires more intense and dangerous. But like your ponderosa pines many of our trees can only reproduce in a fire. Thanks again!

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    • I’ve found beauty everywhere I’ve travelled in my life, and my home state of Nebraska is just one place in the world where there are wonders and beauty to be found. I’ve always thought I’d enjoy visiting your beautiful country, for example, and taking the train across the continent. Or visiting Tasmania. Or the Darwin area or the Great Barrier Reef. Anyway, the fire issue you mention is the same here. People forget that fire is just another way the habitat carries on, improves the land.

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  7. That is a beautiful park, Doug. Much more to Nebraska than one can see from Interstate 80, which is all I have seen of your state. I bet the boys were glad to have you back home safe and sound!

    We had particularly bad fires out our way last year.

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    • They always greet me at the door. They must hear the car driving up.

      Yes, I’ve seen the news about various fires in the West. Terrible, terrible things, especially when they encroach on populated areas.

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