Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

The Agate Fossil Beds are in western Nebraska about an hours drive north of Scottsbluff.  A large fossilizes leg bone was found by James Cook on his land in 1887.  Since then large numbers of fossilized bones and complete skeletons of prehistoric animals have been found in the vicinity.  The bones were found around ancient waterholes.  It is thought the waterholes dried up in a time of drought and the animals died in the shallow waters of a few remaining ponds.

There is a 2.7 mile trail that leaves the visitors center and goes around the two hills where the majority of the bones were found.  Bone fragments can be seen in the exposed faces of the hills.

Previous dig sites have been covered with soil again so as to preserve the fossils still there.  So there is not much to be seen on the trail to indicate the large bones that have been found there.  The day we hiked the trail it was very cold and the wind was howling over the plains.  We had a brief reprise when the trail ducked behind one of the hills but it was short lived.

There is another trail at the entrance to the park that leads to fossilized burrows of a prehistoric beaver looking animal.  I will hike that trail next time I visit.

The visitors center is very informative with full replica skeletons of the various animals found in the fossil beds.  There is also the American Indian Artifact collection of James Cook the original owner of the land on display.  There is a pictograph painted on a hide depicting Custer’s Last Stand.

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