Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Western Nebraska

 

While in Western Nebraska, we re-visited the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  We’ve been there before on a motorcycle adventure a couple years prior but wanted to return to hike a little and get our National Park Passport Stamps.

As before, we were gifted a beautiful warm day of bright sunshine.

 

 

Unfortunately, because its off the beaten path, this great National Monument is sparsely visited. But that’s okay, it made for better photography and frankly, the quiet nature was nice.

The park is very well managed and manicured.  While you can do a gentle hike up near the actual fossil beds, there’s also an interactive center that hosts a museum, mini audio video presentation and some amazing artifacts depicting centuries past; as well, explanation of this great geological amazement.

 

 

 

During the 1890s, scientists rediscovered what the Lakota Sioux already knew; bones preserved in one of the world’s most significant Miocene Epoch mammal sites.
Yet, this place called “Agate” is a landscape that reflects many influences; from early animals roaming the valleys and hills, to tribal nations calling the High Plains home, to explorers passing through or settling in the American West.

 

Agate Fossil Beds and its surrounding prairie are preserved in a 3,000 acre national monument. Once part of “Captain” James H. Cook’s Agate Springs Ranch, the nearby beds are an important source for 19.2 million year-old Miocene epoch mammal fossils. Cook’s ranch also became a gathering place for Chief Red Cloud and otherOglala Lakota (Sioux) Indian people.

 

 

Alittle about the Agate Fossil Beds and why they are important to our Nation’s Geological History.

 

The following information is borrowed from and credited to Kimberly Howard, Biological Technician, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Information from Agate Fossil Beds Park Handbook, U. S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, 1980 for accuracy:

 

 

“During the Miocene the land now known as Agate was a grass savanna comparable to today’s Serengeti Plains in Africa. Twenty million years ago animals such as the Dinohyus (giant pig-like animal), Stenomylus (small gazelle-camel), and Menoceras (short rhinoceros) roamed the plains.

 

There were also carnivorous beardogs wandering around, and the land beaver Paleocastor dug spiral burrows that remain as today’s trace fossils (Daemonelix) into the ancient riverbanks.
There are remnants of the ancient grasses and hoofprints of prehistoric animals in Miocene sediments preserved in the park, as well as layers of fossilized bones.”

 

 

The park was created to preserve the rich fossil deposits and their geological contexts amidst today’s natural ecosystem. Numerous mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds inhabit or pass through the park, undisturbed and protected.

 

Many species of native grasses and shrubs grow across the park’s landscape, as well as some undesirable non-native plants (e.g., Canada thistle) that the park does its best to control.

 

 

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is nestled in the Niobrara River Valley in Nebraska 65 miles [110 km] east-southeast of its headwaters in the Hat Creek Breaks of Wyoming. The park preserves a unique unglaciated area of the High Plains. Wetlands stretch out from the river and meet terraces that lead to the breaks and buttes. The buttes contain important information about the life of mammals in the Miocene Era, some 20 million years ago.

 

The park was created to preserve the rich fossil deposits and their geological contexts amidst today’s natural ecosystem. Numerous mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds inhabit or pass through the park, undisturbed and protected.

 

Many species of native grasses and shrubs grow across the park’s landscape, as well as some undesirable non-native plants (e.g., Canada thistle) that the park does its best to control. Use the links to the left to learn more about the geology, plants, animals, climate, and environment at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.”

 

 We spent approximately two hours at Agate Fossil BedsNational Monument.

 

The motorcycle ride out from Gering/Scotts Bluff was absolutely gorgeous and peaceful; taking in the views of the bluffs, buttes and grasslands. This was another one of Nebraska’s and our Nation’s hidden treasures.  We encourage folks of all ages to take the backroads to see and learn about the geological history and literally, what lies beneath our great Country.

 

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