Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is a U.S. National Monument near Harrison, Nebraska. If you love fossils be sure to read on because this park is loaded with them.
The monument covers a valley of the Niobrara River and the fossils found on Carnegie Hill and University Hill.
History Of TheAgate Fossil Beds National Monument
This park is packed with the preserved history of the Miocene era which ran from about 20 million to 5 million years ago.
Two primary dig sites on Carnegie and University Hills contain amazing examples of the mammals roaming the plains during that era including.
- Ancestors of modern horse (Merychippus)
- A two horned rhinoceros (Diceratherium)
- A pony sized rhinoceros (Menoceras)
- A bear dog (Daphoenodon)
- A semi-aquatic animal similar to the hippo (Promerycochoerus)
- A giant pig-like animal (Entelodont)
- Large land beavers (Palaeocastor)
- A giraffe-like animal (camelids)
While this site has been a fossil bed for a looooooong time before it became a National monument is was a working cattle ranch owned by Capt. James Cook, called the Agate Springs Ranch.
It also has a long history as the home to multiple Plains Indian tribes. The Monuments museum contains over 500 artifacts from the period.
The Agate Fossil Beds National Monument was approved in 1965 but the actual confirmation as a Monument didn’t occur until 1997. The Monument is managed by the National Parks Service.
301 River Road
Harrison, NE 69346
From US 20: 22 miles south of Harrison, NE on State Hwy 29, then three miles east on River Road (paved) From US 26: 34 miles north of Mitchell, NE on State Hwy 29, then three miles east on River Road (paved). From State Hwy 71: 25 miles west on the unpaved portion of River Road.
Summers can be very warm, high 90’s to 100 with the frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Plan to hike early and come down from the higher points if storms threaten. Winter temperatures can dip as low as -20 with snow and wind. Heaviest snows can be expected in late Spring.
Cellphone reception is spotty or not available for most carriers. Free public WiFi is available inside the visitor center.
Visitor Center and Museum
Daily from May 15 until Sept 30: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m (Mountain time zone)
Daily from Oct 1 until May 14: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m (Mountain time zone)
Visitor Center Holiday Closures
Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
The monument’s two trails, the Daemonelix and the Fossil Hills Trails, are open year-round from sunrise to sunset.
Things To Do At Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
The monument includes two trails. The 2.8-mile Fossil Hills trail winds through the historic dig sites and explores the history of the land and its ancient inhabitants. for a shorter walk check out the 1-mile Daemonelix Trail to see fossils still embedded in the side of a hill.
Local History Visitors Center
The excellent visitors center at the Agate Fossil Beds includes a world-famous diorama of the animals discovered in the park as well as displaying a number of fossils discovered on the site.
There is also a 12-minute move exploring the history of the area and the process of the local discoveries.
If you’re interested in more modern history you’re sure to enjoy the James H. Cook collection of over 500 artifacts given to the Cook family by Chief Red Cloud of the Lakota Sioux.
There are no campgrounds within the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Luckily there is a private campground just on the edge of the Monument called Pavement Ends Campground. Reservations are available on Hipcamp.
The remote location of this Monument means limited camping in the immediate area but there are plenty of camping options available with an hour’s drive.
For more camping options check out the listings available on Campendium.
Videos Of Agate Fossil Beds
Get a feel for the park with a few youtube videos.