National Parks / Natural World
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Harrison
Where is it at?
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
301 River Road
Tel: (308) 668-2211
Where are we going today?
Walking into the visitor center at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is stepping back some 20 million years ago when this was the home of Miocene mammals. Dinohyus, a terrible pig-like creature; Moropus, strange-looking relative of the horse; Menoceras, 3 foot tall rhino; Daphoenodon or Beardog that lived in a den; Stenomylus, 2 foot tall camel and the Palaeocastor, an ancient land-loving beaver; all lived and died here. Many perished at a waterhole during a drought that depleted all vegetation and created a bonebed of fossils. The fossils were discovered by James Cook, the man who eventually bought the Agate Springs Ranch. He invited paleontologists to the area in the late 1890's and early 1900's to unearth the fossils and put together the story of what happened here. The exhibits in the visitor center show examples of these fossils and the current theories about why they were found in such a massive bonebed.
Not only do you learn about the fossils, but also about the American Indians that lived in the area. Meet Red Cloud, a leader of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, who was a friend of James Cook and gave him many gifts. Many of these gifts are decorated with beads and quillwork (quills from the porcupine were used to make beautiful designs). On several weekends in the summer, Native American artists work on their crafts in the visitor center and love to tell the story of their culture.
How much does it cost?
When can we go?
Visitor Center and Museum.Summer Season* - 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.Off Season - 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day
Exhibits focus on mammal fossils, an area that is not given a lot of attention in the fossil story, and the early reservation period in Lakota Sioux history. Also information on early ranching and the unique friendship between rancher James Cook and Sioux Leader Red Cloud..
There is a covered picnic area near the visitor center and a drink machine in the lobby. Agate Fossil Beds is located in a remote area so packing a lunch and/or snacks is suggested. .
Any Top Tips?
Walking shoes, hats, sunscreen and water bottles are items to include for walking the trails. At certain times of the year, jackets and coats may be needed. Agate is located in the grasslands where rattlesnakes live and they are occasionally seen by visitors. Camping is not allowed but is available within 25 to 50 miles of the park..
Need a little extra help?
The visitor center is accessible as are the two trails. The Fossil Hills Trail, 2.7 miles round trip, has a wide cement surface. The Daemonelix Trail is 1mile round trip on consolidated crushed rock surface; this surface is a little harder to push stroller or wheelchair on. The trail is accessible to two outdoor displays while the top portion is not accessible. .
Can I get one of those?
Educational products such as books, posters, postcards, as well as a collectable pin and magnet from the site.