Summer is meant to be spent outdoors, which is why so many summer activities occur in the open air. Midwest family favorites include camping, hiking, fishing, trail riding and exploring nature. At Indian Cave State Park in southeast Nebraska, you can do all of that and more.
Located along the Missouri River about 20 miles north of Falls City, Neb., Indian Cave State Park might not resemble the flat Nebraska that many people are used to. With rolling hills, hardwood forests, sandstone cliffs and spectacular river views, park worker Jan Alexander says it’s actually quite similar to the Ozarks. It’s a prime location for camping, whether you’re roughing it in a tent or prefer the modern amenities of a camper.
The park’s name comes from a set of Native American petroglyphs carved into a huge sandstone rock formation (which isn’t really a cave at all). Ms. Alexander says park workers aren’t sure how old the drawings are, but visitors from all over the country come to see the animals and nature scenes they depict. Unfortunately, modern graffiti artists have added their own carvings, so a long wooden boardwalk that leads up to the rock is fitted with railings to prevent future vandalism.
The petroglyphs aren’t the only historical things to see there. Part of the park contains remnants of the abandoned town of St. Deroin. It was prosperous in the mid-19th century, but flooding and transportation changes threatened its commerce, turning it into a ghost town by 1920. Ms. Alexander says the park has rebuilt a few of the original structures to show visitors what life would have been like.
“It was an old fur trader town. ... They reconstructed the schoolhouse, made an exact replica of it. They have a little general store, a log cabin, they have three different little sheds ... where they do living history demonstrations on weekends,” she says.
The demonstrations occur every weekend from mid-May until October and include activities like making soap, candles and straw brooms. Several artifacts also are on display, and demonstration leaders tell stories about the town’s past.
Indian Cave’s horse trails are another popular draw to the area. Campers can bring their own horses to ride, or they can choose a park horse and travel through a series of designated trails. Visitors also can fish, bicycle, bird watch, hike, canoe and much more. In fact, Ms. Alexander says Indian Cave is a familiar destination for many St. Joseph residents.
“In the spring, a lot of people from St. Joe come up and hunt for morel mushrooms,” she says.
The park is putting on a new event this year called Campfire Christmas in July on July 26. The day will be full of holiday-themed activities like sleigh rides, craft sessions and visits with Santa. If you prefer to camp during the cooler fall months, Ms. Alexander says the colorful foliage and the plethora of Halloween events going on at the park makes October its busiest month.
To learn more about Indian Cave State Park and reserve a camping spot, visit nebraskastateparks.reserve america.com and search for it in the “Park Name” sidebar. You also can contact the park office at (402) 883-2575.