• The Niobrara National Scenic river comes alive with color in the fall.

    Niobrara

    National Scenic River Nebraska

Fossils

Fossil rhino vertebra

Paleontologist displays fossil vertebra of prehistoric rhino.

NPS photo

For more than 145 years the central Niobrara River Valley has been an important source for later Cenozoic mammal, fish, and reptile fossils. Fossil deposits found along the Niobrara River dating from the Miocene and Pliocene epochs figured prominently in scientific studies of mammal evolution in North America. One particular site found within the Scenic River, containing no less than 146 species of vertebrates, is the most diverse single-site of Miocene fauna known in North America. More than 160 mapped paleontology sites are present within the Niobrara Scenic River reach. The Scenic River is exceptionally rich in documented fossil sites, averaging ten times the number of sites per unit area when compared to the State of Nebraska as a whole. Fifteen sites in the Scenic River study area are of world class (international) significance, 46 are of national significance, and 106 of regional significance. Eighty species of extinct vertebrates were first discovered in the Scenic River area: 56 mammals, 8 amphibians, 13 reptiles, 2 birds, and 1 fish. Collections of fossils from the Scenic River area are housed in 15 research institutions throughout the United States. Some of the most notable include New York's American Museum of Natural History, Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The largest Niobrara collections are located at the University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall) in Lincoln, and the Frick Laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History.

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