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Finding Fossils in Nebraska
Ashfall Fossil Beds can take you back to a place in prehistoric time that dates back to prehistoric history. The first fossil was found there in 1991. Excavations and fossil preservation continue today.
Among the interesting and educational sites that Nebraska offers, Ashfall Fossil Beds can take you back to a place in prehistoric time that dates back to prehistoric history. It is an intact fossil site where you can learn about fossil preparation techniques, see interpretive displays, ask the paleontologists, (who study prehistoric animals, plant life, geology, and organisms) questions about what they do, and what they have found. Inside the Rhino Barn is a huge area of fossils of prehistoric animals left intact just has they were found for your viewing pleasure. While you are watching there may still find paleontologists and their assistance/students still working to continue to preserve the fossils and find new ones. There is very interesting story to why this site is so remarkable.
Approximately 12 million years ago after a volcanic eruption in Idaho the sky filled with volcanic ash. At that time the area close to the present-time town Royal, located in the northeastern part of Nebraska was an animal's paradise boasting a good water source and plenty of grass to graze on. With the abundance of water grazing herds, waterfowl, turtles, and other large mammals, it wasn't long before it attracted carnivores as well. Since the ash smothered the animals (feeling their lungs), and provided a non-violent death, the animals were incredibly well preserved as they continued to die (smallest to largest animals) quickly leaving a large deposit of animal remains in a relatively small area. Only three to five week they had all perished from the tiniest bird to the last of the rhinos. Due to the ash settling between and over the bodies, covering all the bodies completely, they were rarely scavenged by other roving carnivores. The warm dry ash also helped in the preservation of the animals. In fact, it did so well when the skeletons of these animals were found, not only were they intact, they were also still in the same position they died in. On closer examination there was still evidence of food still in their stomachs and mouths, which told us what they had eaten for their last meal. Even some of their footprints were preserved in what is now sandstone. Along with the animals there were enough remains/seeds of grasses and trees for the scientists to be able to not only put together the type of animals present, but what type of environment they had inhabited before the volcano erupted, changing their world forever. The first fossil was found there in 1991 with many more found throughout the years. There have many full skeletons found intact and ongoing excavations, fossil preservation, and new fossils continue to be unearthed up to this day.
Ashfall fossil beds spread out over 360 acres of rugged rangeland in the beautiful Verdigre Creek Valley. There are nature trails to learn more about the geology and plant life in the area. It is a State Historical Park that is helped supported by not only the Nebraska Game and Parks commission but also the University of Nebraska State Museum (the latter supplying the paleontologists and interpretive staff at the site). The park offers picnic and camping areas by the Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area. Needless to say collecting fossils or any other specimens (plant life, rocks, …etc.), is strictly forbidden anywhere on the State Park grounds, which only makes sense. It would be impossible to keep the area intact if every visitor were to take home even one "souvenir".
For more information contact the park:
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park
86930 517th Avenue,
Royal, NE 68773
Phone: (402) 893-2000
Email: [email protected]
The Ashfall Fossil Beds SHP is located 2mi W, 6mi. N. of the actual town of Royal Nebraska. There is also a zoo within driving distance called Zoo Nebraska located on 4030 US Hwy 20. You will want to pre-arrange hotel/motel reservations. Creighton is located within driving distance also with less primitive campgrounds then those found at the Grove Lake area.
The entrance Fees are as follows:
$5:00 per adult
$3.00 per child 6 and older
Age 5 and under free
You must have a valid Nebraska Park Entry Permit to enter the area which you can purchase for $3.00 for a Daily permit or $17.00 for an Annual permit.
They also offer school and group tours by advance reservations for tours that are scheduled between April 1st and October 20th. For more detailed information and to make reservations call (402)893-2000
Regular viewing hours for the public:
May 1st to Memorial Day weekend: 10am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday
Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day: 9am-5pm Monday -Saturday, and
11am-4pm on Sunday
Labor Day through the second weekend of October: 10am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1pm-4pm Sunday
This is an exciting and historical adventure for the whole family. What an easy and fun way for your children to learn more about prehistoric history, paleontology, and the importance of preserving and studying fossils. Before planning your trip check out other areas of interest within driving distance in surrounding areas by checking out www.visitnebrask.org and either send for the guidebook or download the pdf file for the Lewis and Clark area.