Indian Cave State Park
Indian Cave State Park
RR1 Box 30
Shubert, NE 68437-9801
Named for the huge sandstone cavity that is the main geologic
feature of the area, Indian Cave State Park straddles the Nemaha-Richardson
County line in southeastern Nebraska. The first tract was acquired
by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in 1962, and the park now
covers some 3,000 acres, including 2,386 acres of timber.
The mighty Missouri River edges Indian Cave's irregular eastern border.
The unique natural and historic qualities of the area make it an exceptional
Although still under development, there is much to enjoy at Indian
Cave, and the park has a bright future. Interior roads and the water
system have been completed, along with a modern campground with up-to-date
facilities. Horseback riding, hiking and other back-country adventures
are now available. Long-range plans call for a swimming pool and visitor
center. While Indian Cave will be a first class recreational area, a
large part of the park will be kept in its pristine state as a retreat
for back-to-nature enthusiasts.
Although its actual age has not been determined, it is possible that
Indian Cave has existed for several thousand years. It is a natural
formation, created by silt and fine-grained sand deposits in a Pennsylvanian
rock channel. Petroglyphs or ancient Indian picture writings etched
on the walls of the cave are the only known example of their kind found
in Nebraska. However, their cultural origin and period in history remain
The petroglyphs depict forms, shapes, and scenes, most of the elements
of nature, mostly wildlife. The cave, with its mysterious picture carvings,
is easily accessible to park visitors. Unfortunately, many of the ancient
petroglyphs have been obscured or destroyed by the later gougings of
modern-day visitors. So, please help guard the fragile history of this
unique spot and discourage anyone from defacing the sandstone.
Approximately 300 feet south of the cave is a coal shaft. It was originally
worked by a Mr. Deaver, who lived on the bottom ground and used the
coal to heat his house. The coal was very poor quality.
Indian Cave offers exceptional experiences for campers, hikers, backpacker
anglers, horseback riders, winter sports enthusiasts, and picnickers.
Camping areas can accommodate 225 units and are equipped with picnic
table, firerings, showers, restrooms, and electrical hookups. There
are two laundromats located at the showerhouses. A fee is charged for
camping, and stays are limited to 14 days. All camping is on a first-come
first-served basis, and there is an extra charge for electrical hookups.
Check-out time is 2 p.m., and campers planning to stay over must re-register
by that time.
For hikers, there are some 20 miles of trails. The north road trails
are recommended for day hikers, since there are several picnic shelters,
many tables, and toilets located along the way. The rest of the park
trails are better suited to overnight users. However, hikers are welcome
to explore any of the trails through the parks.
Horseback riders will enjoy the trail ride through the park. Rides
start at the corral near the St. Deroin Schoolhouse and cover about
three miles. Tickets are available at the Booth and should be purchased
early in the day.
Although there are no boat ramps at the park, bank fishermen find plenty
of action from the mighty Missouri River for catfish, bass, bullheads,
carp, and occasionally, a sturgeon. Three parking lots offer handy access
to the river for anglers. For boaters, there is access to the Missouri
at Brownville State Recreation Area, just 15 miles north of the park.
Winter sports are becoming increasingly popular at Indian Cave, with
its picturesque and semi-rugged terrain. Some 16 miles of trails are
marked for cross-country skiing, and the best snow cover usually occurs
in January and February. Since park roads are closed during the winter,
they offer some excellent sledding, as do several of the steep hillsides.
Weekend visitors will want to take in the program at 9:15 p.m. each
Friday and Saturday during the summer season at the amphitheater. A
cookout is offered at 6-6:30 p.m. Saturdays at North Shelter Area. Tickets
are available at the Booth. Live entertainment is provided until 7 p.m.
Group camping is available to organizations, such as the Scouts, 4-H,
churches, and the like. Such groups are assigned an area without electrical
hookups, but there is ready access to drinking water. Groups should
contact the park office in advance to make arrangements for their trip.
Overnight backpackers will find several parking lots strategically
located for their use. Adirondac shelters are situated on the ridges
overlooking the park, while more, primitive campsites are located along
the hiking trails. To accommodate large backpacking groups, there is
a group camp area atop Rock Bluff Ridge. It has three Adirondac shelters,
firerings, tables, and toilets. There is a water pump just a half mile
away. However, large groups who want to use the group camp facility
should contact the park office in advance of their trip.
About the Trail
Indian Cave State Park is a real treasure for hikers, backpackers and
others who like to stroll amid the beauties of nature. Bear in mind,
however, that the very things that make this rugged area so picturesque
also require stamina in the walker. Trails range from 3/4-mile to 6
miles in length. They wind up and down hill and can be quite strenuous.
Steep inclines are not uncommon. Those who are not accustomed to walking
are urged to try one of the short trails first to test their abilities.
Good walking shoes or hiking boots are also advised. This is a fascinating
area with scenic vistas, hundreds of birds and other wildlife, and many
varieties of plants that are unique in Nebraska. Indian Cave offers
walkers and hikers a real opportunity to view close up some of nature's
many and varied wonders.
If history is your "thing," you'll find plenty to stir the
imagination at Indian Cave. In addition to the petroglyphs left by those
mysterious inhabitants of long ago, you'll find the reconstructed mid-19th
Century river settlement known as St. Deroin, the first townsite in
In 1804, Lewis and Clark recorded that they passed a small trading
fort, located about 23 miles above the mouth of the Big Nemaha River.
On July 15, 1830, 125,000 acres were set aside by the Treaty of Prairie
du Chien for the homeless offspring left behind by traders and trappers
who married Indian women. Son of a French man and an Otoe woman, Joseph
Deroin moved onto the tract from the Platte River in the early 1840s.
He set up a trading post and, in 1853, laid out the village that bears
In its early days, St. Deroin had 232 mixed heritage residents, including
50 Iowas, 47 Omahas, 21 Otoes, 3 Sioux and 111 orphans. The village
was one of a chain of small settlements that served as trading and supply
posts for river traffic in the 1870s. A bustling town of 300 people
before the turn of the century, it was doomed by the ever-shifting river
channel and an apparent outbreak of cholera. By the 1920s, St. Deroin
was virtually abandoned except for the one-room school.
Legends, however, abound about the once thriving village. Apparently,
the "Saint" was attached to the name sometime after it was
established, in the hope of attracting more settlers. Joseph Deroin
himself was evidently a colorful and controversial character. Described
as "overbearing and tyrannical," those traits eventually proved
fatal. Deroin was determined to collect $6 for a pig from a settler
despite a warning to stay off the man's land. The settler dropped him
with one shot and was ultimately acquitted of any crime. Local tradition
holds that Deroin was buried astride his horse in the town cemetery.
Another "graveyard" legend centers on a fellow named A.J.
Ritter, who lost an arm while doing a little "fishing" with
dynamite. His arm was buried west of the town. Later, when Ritter died,
he was buried in the St. Deroin Cemetery. Some locals say that on certain
nights, Ritter still rises to search for his lost arm. You can learn
more about this fascinating area at the interpretive log cabin, located
near the original townsite. Although built recently, the cabin was carefully
constructed by methods used in the 1850s. Note the split wood shingles,
handmade iron hardware and the fireplace built from limestone found
on the park.
The son of a French trader, Amable Deroin, and an Otoe Indian woman,
Joseph Deroin was born about 1819 near Bellevue. He lived with his parents
until 1836, when he moved to the main Otoe village near the mouth of
the Platte River.
He married an Omaha Indian woman, Meek-Ka-Ahu-Me, and their only child,
Mary, was born about 1841 near Council Bluffs, IA. In 1842, the family
moved to the tract in Nemaha-Richardson counties, created by the Treaty
of Prairie du Chien. They were among the first to claim land on the
tract. Later that year, Joseph took two more wives -- sisters Julie
and Soula (Su-See) Baskette, the daughters of a Frenchman, Balone Baskette,
and an Iowa Indian woman. He had 8 children by the Baskette sisters.
About 1843, his first wife left to return to the Omaha Reservation.
Although the first record of his trading post was in 1854, he undoubtedly
operated one much earlier. He also ran a trading post at the Otoe Reserve
in Gage County from the mid-1850s until his death at the hands of James
Beddow, the settler he had quarreled with over the pig. Deroin died
April 21, 1858. At the time of his death, he held notes totalling $4,079.06
(quite a sum at that time), including one for $1,500 by 11 Otoe chiefs
at the Reserve. Most of the notes were uncollectible, including that
of the Otoe chiefs.
In 1862, Soula and the children moved to the Iowa Reserve in northeast
Kansas, and the children attended the Kickapoo Training School at Horton,
American Heritage Program
Indian Cave is special in a lot of ways, but one of the things that
truly intrigues visitors is the American Heritage Program. Beginning
Memorial Day weekend and continuing throughout the summer, you can see
such old-time crafts as how to make Granny's Lye Soap and candle dipping
at the old Log Cabin. Broom-making demonstrations, using an 1879 machine,
are given at the St. Deroin General Store. The St. Deroin Schoolhouse
is also open to give visitors a glimpse of how the "Three R's"
were taught in days gone by. The one-room brick school was built in
1908 and restored to its original state in 1978.
Rules and Regulations
A park entry permit is required at Indian Cave. Permits are available
at the park office, at any Game and Parks Commission office, or from
any hunting and fishing permit vendor.
The park gates are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April 15 through
October 31. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year, weather
permitting. Quiet hours are 10p.m. to 6a.m.
Remember to be careful with fire. Fires are permitted only in stoves
or the firerings provided, although you may use your own camp stove.
Discharging firearms is prohibited.
Removing or picking plants, animals, rocks, or artifacts is prohibited.
Please place trash in the cans provided, and, backpackers, please carry
out what you carry in.
Camping is limited to 14 days, and all pets must be on a leash. Swimming
is not allowed in the Missouri River or its oxbows, since the river
can be extremely treacherous. Drinking of alcoholic beverages is prohibited
on the park.
Vehicles must stay on the paved roadways, parking lots, or campgrounds.
The speed limit is 25 mph, unless otherwise posted.
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