Agate Fossil Beds National Monument


Agate Fossil Beds National Monument was established June 14th 1997 and is located in Nebraska near Harrison.

The main attractions for most visitors include the dramatic displays in the Visitor Center showcasing ancient mammals that once roamed the American Plains, and the unique Cook Collection of American Indian artifacts. For those with more time, short hikes from one to three miles allow the opportunity to explore the natural history of the Niobrara River Valley and its current and past wildlife.

Agate is more than fossils. During the 1890s, scientists rediscovered what the Lakota Sioux already knew - bones preserved in one of the most complete Miocene mammal sites in the world.
Yet, Agate is a landscape that reflects many players - from early animals roaming the valleys and hills, to tribal nations calling the High Plains home, to explorers and ranchers passing through or settling in the American West.

Artists-In-Residence Program

Each summer, the staff at Agate continue the legacy of rancher James Cook by inviting American Indian artists back to the Niobrara Valley. In the past, artists have brought skills handed down to them such as creating beautiful bead and quill work, hide paintings, and decorated gourds.

Outdoor Activities

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.


Indoor Activities

The Visitor Center/Museum features an information desk, theater with 12 minute movie, two exhibit galleries, and a bookstore, all overlooking the Niobrara River and its distinctive bluffs.

After the Dinosaurs
A feeling of "then and now" radiates from a life-size diorama of the mounted skeletons (replicas) of the more unusual fossil animals discovered at Agate, and occupies the entire south side of the main gallery in front of three large windows. Other displays focus on other real or replica fossils found in the area and invite interaction on the part of the viewer to think like a scientist. Featured are such beasts as the "terrible pig" Dinohyus, the long necked, claw-toed Moropus, snarling beardogs, and dwarf rhinos in abundance.

Two Cultures, One Land
Also on display are the remnants of a deep friendship between rancher James Cook and the Lakota (Sioux) of Red Cloud and other High Plains tribes.
The James Cook Collection is closed at this time while the Gallery is being renovated!
Indians often visited him at his ranch and gave him gifts from the early reservation years, including fancy beaded or quilled moccasins, Indian games, a painted hide of the Custer Battle, guns, decorated clubs, a dog travois, and much more. Black and white photos of Cook's visitors, a sound track by traditional singer Bill Horn Cloud, and a colorful, contemporary "wintercount" or historical calendar, create a mood for this special collection not to be missed by admirers of indigenous culture.

Visitor Center and Museum Hours

Summer Season* - 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Off Season - 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Closed Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving.

Trails Open from dawn until dusk year-round.
*Summer Season is Memorial Day through Labor Day

Contact Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Write to
301 River Road
Harrison, NE 69346

Visitor Center and Museum
(308) 668-2211
(308) 668-2318



Source: National Park Service
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