Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
As proposed by the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Association, Agate, Nebraska
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The Agate Fossil Beds are nationally significant because of their numerous, concentrated, well-preserved Miocene mammal fossils, which represent an important chapter in the history of life, one that is not now adequately represented in the National Park System. This site is significant too because of the important contributions made here by the early pioneers of scientific research in the West. The area also meets suitability and feasibility requirements for a National Monument.

Based on these conclusions it is recommended that the area described in this report be established as the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, and that the necessary steps be taken as soon as possible to achieve the establishment of this area as a unit of the National Park System.

Conducted walks, similar to this at Badlands National Monument, would be programmed.


This area with its wealth of impressive and easily exposed fossil remains has unusual and interesting development opportunities to facilitate its public use, understanding, and enjoyment. The important story here would be presented through various interpretive methods.

The major interpretive story would be planned in the vicinity of Carnegie and University Hills, the sites of the principal quarries. The National Park Service would expose representative fossil remains at these sites by tunneling into the hills and removing the overburden of sediments above the two to three feet thick horizontal fossil beds. A visitor could then see the fossil skeletons of many creatures just as they were left fifteen million years ago when quieted by the stillness of death. Through certain interpretive display techniques, visitors could feel themselves closely associated with life of this now vanished scene. Also, they would have the opportunity to observe scientists exposing the deposits, reconstructing some of the skeletons and reliefing certain fossils in place. To complement the in-place exhibits in telling the story of life represented here, a series of museum exhibits also would be prepared.

The exposure of some fossils for in-place exhibits and the removal of others for laboratory use or museum exhibition would necessitate careful and meticulous excavation, reliefing and preservation techniques. Paleontological laboratory facilities would be required throughout the many years excavation and reliefing work would be carried on. The site would be maintained as a research center with facilities not only for field work on fossil remains, but would be provided with reference material, including an adequate library and reference collection of fossils.

An adequate structure would be built at the selected quarry site to provide for these activities. In-place exhibits would be provided at the Stenomylus Quarry and "Devil's Corkscrew" sites.

The National Monument headquarters would be developed in the vicinity of the Agate Springs Ranch and would consist of a visitor center, employee housing and maintenance buildings. In addition, a campground would be developed nearby.

The visitor center would be the initial contact station for Monument visitors. It would be comprised principally of an exhibit room and administrative offices. Here would be exhibited the Indian artifacts and historical materials making up the famous collection which Mrs. Cook intends to donate. Through these and additional exhibit materials would be portrayed the contribution of early scientists who worked here, the story of the Cook family and its contribution to early ranching, and Captain Cook's association with the Indians. Only enough paleontological information to stimulate the visitor's interest would be provided at the headquarters visitor center. The major paleontological story would be presented at the quarries as previously described.

A system of roads and trails would be developed for easy access to the many points of interest.

The rich natural history of this area would be interpreted by park naturalists through the medium of conducted walks, museum talks and evening lecture programs. Interpretive markers, self-guiding trails and wayside exhibits would provide interesting details of the scientific story for the benefit of those exploring on their own.

Visitors at Dinosaur National Monument listen to an interpretive talk while observing Dinosaur bones reliefed on the quarry face. A similar experience could be provided at the Agate Quarry sites.


The proposed Agate Fossil Beds National Monument consists of approximately 3,150 acres. The principal area is irregular in shape, four miles long from east to west, and varies in width from three-fourths to almost two miles. A small detached area of 60 acres containing the Stenomylus Quarry is included in the total acreage. Also included is a connecting road right-of-way approximately 1.5 miles long and 200 feet wide. This area would preserve the famous Agate Springs Fossil Quarries at Carnegie and University Hills and their immediate surroundings; a representative portion of excellent "Devil's Corkscrew" formations; the Stenomylus Quarry; and a scenic stretch of the Niobrara River bluffs which today is somewhat indicative of the ancient scene here in Miocene times. It would also protect from unsightly developments the unspoiled scene along the existing roads; preserve the locale at the Agate Springs Ranch where scientific groups based their early historic operations; and provide space for the necessary public and administrative facilities.

The Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is proposed as a unit of the National Park System to be administered under the provisions of the 1916 Act which established the National Park Service. Preservation for public enjoyment would be the basic guiding principle.

Fossils in place would be protected and interpreted as along this self-guiding trail in Badlands National Monument.

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Last Updated: 12-Nov-2010