Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Agate Fossil Beds, Nebraska

North of Scottsbluff on the west side of Nebraska are the Agate Fossil Beds.

Watch for local wildlife.  We nearly stepped on this guy as we came out the door.  The rangers had snake handling equipment handy, but it wasn't necessary.  He was non-venomous and just passing through.

Since you have to walk a couple miles from the visitors' center to get to the main fossil site, a lot of  finds were brought to the museum.  The animals here date from 19-21 million years ago when grassland had almost completely replaced jungle due to climate change.  The finds are mostly mammals such as rhinos and camels and bear-dogs.  A kind of burrowing beaver made spiral burrows that fossilized and perplexed paleontologists for many years.

I took a lot of pictures of the James H. Cook collection of Native Indian artifacts, but it was so dark and cool (for preservation) that none of them came out very well.  It was pretty neat though.  The rangers plainly had a lot of admiration for Cook and looking through the collection was easy to see why.  He was a man of integrity and generosity whose relationship with the Lakota Sioux and their Chief Red Cloud was deep and of mutual respect.  Many of them came to work on his land and he was able to protect some of them from the government, and they gave him numerous gifts of amazing artistry.  Over and over they requested he be made an official representative between the reservations and the United States, but it never came to pass.  Cook ranched on most the surrounding hills and his descendants decided his possessions should stay with the land.

Meanwhile, I don't think much of the land has changed from Cook's days.

Unfortunately between the heat, our traveling time constraints, and the physical capabilities of our kids, we didn't make the hike to the actual quarry site.  I really wish they had a shuttle that drove out there.  The kids still got their junior ranger badges.

The nearest town is Mitchell to the south.  It has gas and fast food.  Scottsbluff is a few more miles away and much more substantial.

Nearby attractions: Toadstool Geologic Park, Scotts Bluff, Fort Robinson, Carhenge, Chimney Rock.
Similar attraction: Ashfall Fossil Beds, Dinosaur National Monument

Tell 'em we sent ya!

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