Known as one of the world's most significant Miocene Epoch mammal sites, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska is a must see destination for RV lovers who are interested in the prehistoric ages. The history of the area dates back millions of years to before humans emerged on the planet. During the 1890s fossils were first discovered in the area that are known now to be over 20 million years old.
Before being declared a national monument, the area was known as Agate Springs Ranch and was a working cattle ranch that was owned by local James Cook. The national monument was first authorized on June 5, 1965 but was not actually established until 1997.
The park is well known for having a large number of well-preserved Miocene fossils that date back to about 20 million years ago. Out of these fossils there have been a range of different species that have been uncovered, including ancestors of the modern horse, a pony-sized rhinoceros, a bear dog and land beavers amongst others.
In present day the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument features a visitor center, museum, hiking trails, life-size dioramas of skeletons and an interactive hiking exhibit. The monument's museum collection also contains more than 500 artifacts from the Cook family collection of Plains Indians artifacts.
The area at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is massive and encompasses over 3,000 acres but you are not allowed to camp in any of the National Monument area. If you are looking to stay the night in your RV we recommend staying at the nearbyFort Robinson State Park.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is located just off the NE-29, so reaching the park in an RV or car is a fairly easy endeavor. The park is accessible via River Road either off the NE-29 or from South Belmont Road, which is located to the north-east. Once inside the park, visitors will find the roads very easy to navigate as well thanks to the roads being very well maintained and are wide enough for big RV rigs.
Before you begin your journey to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument we recommend that you stock up on supplies and amenities in towns located close by to the area. These include Harrison (around 24 miles away), Crawford (51 miles away) and Lusk (around 55 miles away). The closest city to the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is Chadron, which is around 75 miles to the north-east.
While the area is open all year round, we recommend that if you are traveling during the winter months that you contact the park office to make sure that the road into the park is open and clear of snow and ice.
Since the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is so large there are plenty of parking opportunities available for those visiting.
Unfortunately there are no public transport options that will take you to the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
Soldier Creek Campground at Fort Robinson State Park has facilities available for RV camping. There are 18 sites in Soldier Creek Campground that feature 30 amp electrical hookups and are pet friendly. Luckily for those traveling with big rigs, the sites can accommodate RVs up to 60 feet in length.
There are three ADA-approved disability sites in Soldier Creek Campground. There's also a water collection point. This campground doesn't have its own toilet block, but there is on between this campground and the neighboring Red Cloud campground.
The campground stays open all year, and electricity is provided to the sites. However, be advised that the water is turned off during the winter to prevent damage to the pipes from freezing.
At first glance around Agate Fossil Beds National Monument you may think that the area is empty of animals. This is not the case! There is a diverse variety of wildlife but you may struggle to find it during the daytime. There are migratory birds, butterflies and moths, as well as beetles, rabbits, deer, amphibians and snakes. Once dusk hits you will also be able to hear the common call of coyotes looking for their next meal. For more information on the local wildlife have a chat to the friendly park staff.
Thanks to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument being 50 miles from the closest town of size and 23 miles from the closest village, the area is in an amazing location to do some stargazing. Light pollution at the park is also minimal since all of the outdoor lights on the visitor center and maintenance yard point down instead of up and are not very bright. The stargazing opportunities attracts people of all ages and photographers looking for the perfect shot. We recommend bringing your telescopes and red flashlights to soak up the night skies.
During the winter time sometimes the weather outside isn't the best for going out and checking the fossil areas. If the weather's not great for hiking, check out the interactive hiker. The touch-screen monitor features closed captions and offers the opportunity for your fingers instead of your legs to do the hiking as you learn about the geology and fossil exhibits that can be discovered along the trails. The interactive hiking display can be found within the visitor center.
A great feature of the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is the life-size diorama that showcases mounted skeletons of the surprising Miocene Epoch mammals that were discovered in the historic Agate Springs quarries. The diorama has a cool history in that paleontologists found the fossils used to make the skeletons' plaster casts on the grounds of the monument. Along with the large diorama you will also find smaller displays in the visitor center that features real and replica fossils, trace fossils, and mounted skeletons. Alive after the Dinosaurs is open all year round.
The Visitor Center and Museum is the best way to find out more information about the area and fossils that have been found within the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. The center is open throughout the year but there are different opening times depending on the time of year that you are visiting. The visitor center and museum features two different exhibit galleries, a theater with a 12-minute orientation movie, a ranger station and information desk, and a bookstore/gift shop.
Those looking to adventure on land can take advantage of the two separate hiking trails that are located within Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. The trails total around four miles in length and are a great way to explore the grass-covered plains. If you have the time to do so, check out the Fossil Hills Trail. This wheelchair-accessible trail begins at the visitor center and will take you across the Niobrara River and its wetlands and then loops around University and Carnegie Hills.