Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Quick Facts

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Nebraska

(308) 668-2211

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Agate is an internationally recognized fossil site. However, as a place, Agate is so much more. The landscape surrounding the fossil beds has been a site of change for millions of years. The relationship between land, weather, ecology and mammals in the Agate area has been a stage of continual change over time.

Agate has also been a home to people like James Cook and his wife, Kate; great leaders of great nations like Red Cloud and American Horse. A place where people have lived, raised families and died. The record that is preserved in this cultural landscape not only reflects the diverse history of change and evolution, but also the struggles of existence in a region with so many extremes.

Agate is also a place of interaction, reflective of both the natural and cultural realms. For Agate has been a meeting place between weather and sediment; the exchange of ideas and memories between cultures; and a site for present generations to make contact with the past. It's a place where tangible reminders of these interactions are present everyday. The weathering of sedimentary rock, bones becoming visible in cliffs, and the gifts presented to James Cook by the Lakota Sioux are all reflective of the strong natural and cultural relationships of the Agate landscape.

Depending upon one's cultural viewpoint, discovery will always have a direct connection to the scientific history of Agate. During the 1880s and moving into a new century, scientists would rediscover what the Lakota Sioux and others already knew about--bones preserved in what many paleontologists believe is one of the best preserved Miocene mammal sites in the world. Through the help of James and Kate Cook, the complex interactions between weather, mammals and the land would be studied by scientific field crews from places like Pittsburgh and New York City.

So, Agate is more than fossils; it is a cultural landscape that has evolved over millions of years and reflects many players; from early mammals roaming the valleys and hills, to nomadic nations of the plains, and later tales of life in the American West. Agate is truly a place of history.

Map of Agate Fossil Beds

Latitude, Longitude: 42.431515, -103.727942

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Activities

  • Bicycling

    Biking is permitted at the park.

  • Fishing

    The Niobrara River runs next to the park and provides anglers a place to fish.

  • Hiking

    Two trails lead to the north and south rim of the valley and to the sites where fossils have been found. The Daemonelix Trail has exhibits encasing actual fossils, while the Fossil Hills Trail currently does not. Fossil Hills Trail: This two and a half mile trail crosses the Niobrara River wetlands (just a stream in these parts) and loops around University and Carnegie Hills, where the great bonebed of Agate was discovered in 1904. Signs point out certain historic and geologic features and identify plants along the way. A side trail (one mile) leads to the restored 1910 homestead of Harold Cook, which was later used by the scientists as their "Bone Cabin" while working the fossil quarries.

    Daemonelix Trail: This one mile trail travels through time, including ancient sand dunes and fossil grassland soils, as well as the curious spiral burrows (Devil's Corkscrews) of dry land beavers. Their now petrified homes formed colonies much like current prairie dogs and attracted early scientists to this region. The view from the top overlooking the historic Agate Springs Ranch and surrounding tableland is superb and reflects the vast openness of the land east of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Historic Sites

    There are four miles of self-guided trails around the historic quarries and the Niobrara River wetlands, terraces, and breaks.

  • Horseback Riding

    Horseback riding is permitted at the park. Please call the park office for more information.

  • Picnicking

    Picnic near the visitor center or along a trail.

Seasonality/Weather

Trails are open from dawn until dusk year-round. The visitor center is open year-round, except for federally observed holidays. Agate is generally sunny and dry in the summer, with occasional afternoon thundershowers, and windy and cold in the winter. Wear comfortable clothing appropriate to the season. Hats are useful against exposure to the sun. Good walking shoes are recommended for use on the hiking trails.

Directions

Driving

Visitors traveling east-west on U.S. Highway 26, turn North on State Highway 29 at Mitchell, Nebraska. The park is 34 miles from Mitchell. Visitors traveling on U.S. Highway 20, turn South on State Highway 29 at Harrison, Nebraska. The park is 22 miles from Harrison. Follow the National Park Service signs.

Public Transportation

Public Transportation - No public transportation is available at the park.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(308) 668-2211

Links