I had never heard of this place.
Scottsbluff— Chimney Rock, learned about them in 5th grade but it wasn’t until I headed to Nebraska in 2014 I heard about Agate. Even then I didn’t make it over there…
But I planned time to go the next year. A co-worker and I both had a day off together and decided to make a day trip over.
Agate is perfect for folks that love the prairie, paleo, and rivers.
Fun— well for geeky NPS nerds— fact the Niobrara River cuts through three national park sites in Nebraska. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Niobrara National Scenic River, and the Missouri National Recreational River. It also drastically changes over its journey across the state— at Agate you can almost stand on both sides… if you’re tall enough.
I also didn’t realize in 2015 I didn’t take in photos of the Niobrara proper— I did take some landscapes but it just looks greener—or if I did I must have filed them somewhere differently than normal. I’ll chat about going back with a different set of coworkers in the future with a photo…
But this trip was a fact finding mission. We were searching for paleontology resources!
Yes— we’re geeks but we’re geeks that hike!
I was prepping a program on paleontology in general but I wanted to know more about bone crushing dogs and beardogs and my coworker was working on her horse legs program.
We found a lot of cool stuff and then I found the exhibit on the Lakota.
Agate— has a wonderful collection of Native American artifacts that were given to the Cook family— mainly rancher James Cook— over the years. Due to a friendship between James and Chief Red Cloud.
Cook and his wife after buying the ranch from his in-laws made a discovery, “a beautifully petrified piece of the shaft of some creature’s leg bone.”
By 1905, paleontologist we’re making major finds in mammalian fossil history. I’ve mentioned it before— I think— that dinosaurs were not major finds in Nebraska. A combination of a vast inland sea and acidic soil during that time frame meant there were not a lot of dinosaur remains found in the state.
Large aquatic reptiles (like the mosasaurs), ancient fish, turtles, and sharks have been found. However, Nebraska truly stands out when it comes to mammal fossils. My favorite the giraffe neck camel roamed the area. Barrel bodied rhinos, four tusked elephants, mammoths, mastodons, giant beavers, the Valentine mouse, and the list keeps going.
If you ever get a chance stop into Agate, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Site, Niobrara NSR, Niobrara or Ponca State Parks, and finally Morrill Hall at University of Nebraska—Lincoln.
Agate though is a beautiful place. The visitor center is excellent and the hiking peaceful.
We took a winding path up into the plains and checked out the Daemonelix or “Devil’s Corkscrews” which are the homes of Paleocastor or the ancient beaver. They are smaller than their modern counterparts and minuscule compared to the Giant Beavers.
The day went fast and we had a nice day wandering around the National Monument.
Maybe someday I’ll talk about how in the NPS eyes all sites are national park sites and that the way they are designated determines the big NP or national historic site, national scenic river, or national monument— but not today!
P.S. photos didn’t do it justice especially since I didn’t take my good camera.