Nature & Science
During the Miocene the land now known as Agate was a grass savanna comparable to today's Serengeti Plains in Africa. Twenty million years ago animals such as the Dinohyus (giant pig-like animal), Stenomylus (small gazelle-camel), and Menoceras (short rhinoceros) roamed the plains. There were also carnivorous beardogs wandering around, and the land beaver Paleocastor dug spiral burrows that remain as today's trace fossils (Daemonelix) into the ancient riverbanks. There are remnants of the ancient grasses and hoofprints of prehistoric animals in Miocene sediments preserved in the park, as well as layers of fossilized bones.
The park was created to preserve the rich fossil deposits and their geological contexts amidst today's natural ecosystem. Numerous mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds inhabit or pass through the park, undisturbed and protected. Many species of native grasses and shrubs grow across the park's landscape, as well as some undesirable non-native plants (e.g., Canada thistle) that the park does its best to control. Use the links to the left to learn more about the geology, plants, animals, climate, and environment at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
Text by Kimberly Howard, Biological Technician, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Information from Agate Fossil Beds Park Handbook, U. S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, 1980.
Did You Know?
The Niobrara River flows through Agate Fossil Beds. Except for 50-60 miles in Wyoming, this river is exclusively in Nebraska. The river seems quite small to visitors, who are surprised to find out that the Niobrara National Scenic River downstream near Valentine is broad and popular with canoers. More...