SIOUX COUNTY, Neb. – Carnegie Hill and University Hill at the Agate Fossil Beds in Harrison, Neb. offer a look into the archeological past of the area.
The fossil beds, which were discovered by scientists in the late 1800’s, uncovered bones from many different species of animals from the Miocene age, which was around 20 million years ago. Some of the species found in the beds were the beardog (Amphicyon) and the Menoceras, which is a smaller rhinoceros.
Inside the visitor’s center, there is a diorama of reconstructed animals based on the fossils found on site, offering a live look into history. The visitor’s center also houses information on the dig sites themselves, showcasing some of the things found on the hills and a look at what it means to be a geologist.
One room in the visitor’s center houses Native American artifacts from the James H. Cook collection, providing another layer of history.
Once outside, Carnegie Hill and University hill are the main attraction, with a two-mile walking path up and around the two dig sites. There are informational signs around the path, showing what things looked like during the Miocene age or offering more information about the dig sites.
While taking a walk around the old dig sites, it is important to remember to stay on the trail. There is a danger for falling rocks and loose terrain. All fossils found in the area are not to be moved or taken, as it is a federal offense to fossil poach while at the Agate Fossil Beds.
On top of a look at the past, the path offers a scenic view of the valley, with several signs marking different species of plants along the way. The Niobrara River runs right through the area, with a walking bridge over the water. Depending on the time of day and year of the visit, and the luck of the visitors, wildlife can be seen on the move or just lounging out in the sun.
Whether looking for an in-depth view into the history of the area, including the Miocene age, or just hoping for a scenic walk through the valley, the Agate Fossil Beds can be a day trip for the ages.