Find family fun at Nebraska's Fossil beds
Enthrall the future paleontologists in your family with a visit to one of Nebraska's fossil beds.
Dominating a wide, empty landscape in Harrison, Nebraska, are craggy cliffs. Inside those cliffs are bones—one of the most complete Miocene mammal sites in the world, in fact. Welcome to the Agate Fossil Beds. Inside the visitor center, gape at life-size dioramas of some of the animals that roamed this land up to 21 million years ago. Then grab a brochure to help you explore onsite trails. Relatively short in length (the longest is just under three miles), the trails lead to the Niobrara River Valley where the Lakota Sioux, and later a rancher named James Cook, discovered the fossilized bones of animals once described as beardogs, gazelle-camels and "terrible pigs."
At Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Royal, where prehistoric animal skeletons are preserved in volcanic ash, watch experts at work and ask all the questions you want. Start with, “Unearthed anything lately?” and you might be surprised at the response—paleontologists have recently discovered rhinos and three-toed horses onsite. Chat with staff in the fossil preparation lab, check out interpretive displays and stroll over to the Rhino Barn, where additional work is underway.
Bonus: Ashfall is situated in the Verdigre Creek Valley, a scenic spot with nature trails, room to picnic and proximity to Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area, which welcomes fishing and primitive camping.