Indian Cave State Park is located on the border of Nemaha and Richardson counties along the Missouri River. When it was established in 1962, the initial tract of land that comprised the park was as large as all of Nebraska’s other state parks combined (Chadron, Victoria Springs, Arbor Lodge and Ponca). Several more tracts of land have been added in the last five decades and the park is now nearly 3,400 acres. A little over half the park consists of woodlands, but a series of roads, hiking trails and camping sites have been carved out through it.
The park is open all year long and its rustic beauty is the main draw for visitors. The most popular time to visit Indian Cave State Park is in the springtime, when thousands of wildflowers are in bloom and the natural species of birds are most active due to mating season. Ornithologist Paul Johnsgard from the University of Nebraska has estimated that there around 140 species of birds can be seen in the park. When hiking you’re likely to encounter red-shouldered hawks, broad-winged hawks, white eyed vireo, Carolina wrens, Chuck Will’s Widows, summer tanagers, cerulean, Louisiana water thrush, pileated woodpeckers, and Kentucky and yellow throated warblers.
Another popular time to explore this state park is in autumn when the forests are awash with color. The wide variety of deciduous trees burst into reds, yellows and oranges and the weather turns pleasant and cool for hiking. Several types of oak trees are native to this area (black, white, blackjack and Chinquapin), along with bitternut and shellbark hickory, sycamore, redbud, black cherry, pawpaw, prickly ash, June Berry and bladdernut trees. Some parts of the forest are very old with trees exceeding 80 feet in height.
A variety of accommodation choices are available for your trip to Indian Cave State Park. There are nine Adirondack style shelters available to reserve that include fire rings for cooking and campfires. If you are travelling with an RV or trailer, the park offers 134 paved pads with electric hookups. There are no sewer hookups but the park has a dump station for you to clean out your RV as you head out. These camping facilities are open starting 15 April through 1 November as weather allows.
There are group campsites available and even a special campground for horseback riders who want to camp out with their horses. There are over 13 miles of trails designated for horseback riding. In the summer and fall, supervised horseback rides are available on the weekends.
Primitive camping along the park’s nature trails is allowed for those who prefer to tent. Visitors will find picnic sites complete with grills scattered throughout the park. Showers, bathrooms, laundry facilities and a playground are also available for the park’s guests.
There are 20 miles of hiking trails established for all ability levels. Ranging from half a mile to seven miles in length, there are many strenuous trails to challenge even the most serious hiking enthusiasts. Indian Cave State Park also has several paved roadways so the elderly or handicapped can become immersed in nature and catch glimpses of the local wildlife from the comfort of their automobiles.
The peaceful Missouri River meanders through the park. For a beautiful view of the river, hike up to the Lewis and Clark interpretive lookout. There is also a public boat launch available so you can enjoy the view from the water or do some fishing. Another interesting sight to visit at the park is the historic St. Deroin School House, which was in use until 1944. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission restored it in 1978 and has since maintained it for visitors to enjoy. You can also look for the old St. Deroin cemetery and visit the graves of local residents who lived in the area between 1866 and 1934.
In order to visit Indian Cave State Park you need to have a current Nebraska State Park Entry Permit. To find out more information about this beautiful park, visit their official website: http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/nebland/articles/parks/indiancave.asp.