Trees and Shrubs
The riparian area supports many large cottonwoods and smaller willows. The cottonwoods provide vital habitat for wildlife such as red-tailed hawks, Swearinger's hawks, great horned owls, and some species of bats. The trees also shade the waters of the Niobrara River, keeping them cool, allowing more oxygen in the water for fish. The willows serve a similar purpose, providing cover and food for rodents and shading the river.
Text by Kimberly Howard, Biological Science Technician, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
Sumac is found on the hillsides throughout the park and is most common in disturbed areas. Buffalo berry bushes are also found in the park, but are most common near the Visitor's Center and Museum. Both are used by rabbits and rodents as shelter from the wind and to hide from predators. Deer do occasionally browse on the shrubs but the plants are adapted to survive and recover quickly.
Did You Know?
The windmills seen in the area are still used to pump water into stock tanks for cattle to drink. Some of these wells are 250 to 300 feet deep and provide a good source of water as long as the wind blows.