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A visit to Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area

April 17, 2011

Two weekends ago, husband and I checked out Carter Canyon. Last weekend, we (and a friend) paid a visit to Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area, southwest of Melbeta.

Here is a map of the area:

The green-outlined area was our target location. (The blue area is Bead Mountain, which I hope to visit soon.) We were aiming for the western parking area (indicated by the yellow box), but as we were headed south on Wright’s Gap Road from Highway 92, we missed the turn for County Road X – we didn’t see a road sign and drove right past it. So, we wound up parking in the lot off of Wright’s Gap Road instead.

You’ll know you’re getting close to that Wright’s Gap parking lot when you see this structure on the east side of the road (this view was headed north, but you’ll definitely recognize it from the south-facing view):

Shes a brick . . . horse!

Here is the parking lot, just before the road goes to gravel:

Since we were on the narrow finger of land on the eastern edge of the WMA and didn’t want to wander off onto private property, we struck off along what was probably a deerpath, vaguely discernible on the right side of this photo:

One of the first things I noticed about the area was the weird boulders. I later learned they are classified as conglomerate sedimentary rock.

This lichen-y rock reminded me of Easter eggs.

These boulders had to come from somewhere – the clifftop!


The rock particles in the boulders were often very loosely connected. Seeing the overhanging ledges of conglomerate sedimentary rock on the cliff edges made me a bit nervous.

One neat-o keen-o thing about the north-facing rocky cliff area . . .

. . . was what I found growing there – ferns! Not exactly what I expected to find in this dry west Nebraska environment.

Here’s another view, which shows some of the unfurling leaves and their fuzzy brown undersides:

A guess of “rusty cliff fern” was the closest I could come to figuring out what kind of fern it was, based on this description. However, the USDA plants database distribution map for that species does not compute.

I suppose I could go ask an expert to positively ID the fern, but I am too lazy. I am hoping an expert will find this blog post and comment.

Here is another plant I could not identify, which looked about to bloom. (Nonnative species, perhaps?)

Another emerging plant, which I think I can safety identify as a star lily. (Can’t wait until they bloom!)

Just as on the previous week’s hike, we saw plenty of Hood’s phlox, but this time we found small carpets of the stuff.

Oooo! A purplish one! Pretty!

(It looked more purple in real life than in the photo.)

Another bloomer we saw last week was the grass. There was so much grass blooming at Buffalo Creek that my boots sometimes turned yellow from the pollen! (Poor, poor allergy sufferers!)

And where there is grass in western Nebraska, there are grasshoppers!


After all the grasshoppers I saw last hike, they seemed old hat to me. I was more interested in the spiders. It seemed that everywhere I looked in the grass, I could see a spider scurrying away from me. I found an interesting little guy climbing on me, too. I put him on a tree branch and took his picture. Can you see him?

Another interesting feature of the landscape were the terrace structures, which extended from WMA property onto private property to the north. I climbed up the bluff a ways to get a better look. They are visible in satellite photos of the area, too. They aren’t quite like any agricultural terraces I’ve seen before, which are shelf-like. These were more like berms. What were they for? It must have taken a lot of work to build them!

A note on climbing up to the blufftop: don’t do it. The top of the bluff is private property.

It was really hard to tell from our map printout where the property lines were. At one point, there was a sturdy barbed wire fence and NGPC signs that made things obvious.

But once you got into the trees, things got confusing.

Wait . . . is this tree private property, or public property?

It was only after zooming in on the maps at home that things became more clear. (Though who knows how accurately the lines on the map were drawn?) It looks like the north bluff face is public property in places, but the top is definitely private property.

All in all, Buffalo Creek was a fun hike. I’d like to go back and hike out from the western parking area, if I can find it. I hear there’s a pond somewhere out there.

As a bonus on the way home, we saw some pelicans floating around out on Cochran Lake.

On to the next adventure!

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

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