• The Agate Fossil Hills where mammal fossils were excavated in the early 1900's

    Agate Fossil Beds

    National Monument Nebraska

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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 visits the historic early 1900's quarries. Trail guides are available for both trails.

 
The Fossil Hills on a spring day.

Walk the Fossil Hills Trail.

Fossil Hills Trail

This 2.7 mile trail begins at the visitor center, 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. An unpaved one mile side trail leads to the restored (outside only) 1910 homestead of Harold Cook, which was later used by the scientists as their "Bone Cabin" while working the fossil quarries.

 
A view of one Daemonelix exhibit case from above.

One of the Daemonelix exhibit cases on the Daemonelix trail.

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.

Did You Know?

Dinohyus skull in diorama

One of the more menacing beasts found in the quarries at Agate Fossil Beds was the Dinohyus. This big-toothed animal was a scavenger credited with tearing apart the rhino skeletons that ended up in the waterhole bonebed. Although not related to the pig family, his nickname was “Terrible Pig.” More...