Agate Fossil Beds...
Jun 8, 2007
|Today dawned bright, beautiful & best of all calm. Absolutely no wind at all! Amazing...we got started early & we still pulled out at 11:30am! I just don't get it. Of course, my hubby seems to be the hit of the campground everywhere we go & he gets waylaid if he even steps out the door with the trash! We really debated on our route this morning as we are headed to SD. But the guys in the campground highly recommended we stop at the Agate Fossil Beds, so we have decided to take the time. It's not too far out of our way, & who knows when we'll be back this way again.
About 19-20 million years ago a drought occurred in the plains of western Nebraska. Deprived of food, hundreds of animals died around a few shallow waterholes. Over time the skeletons were buried under silt, fine sand, and volcanic ash, carried by the wind & reworked by streams. A large fossilized waterhole with hundreds of skeletons is preserved today at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
Located on the Niobrara River in northwestern Nebraska, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and its surrounding prairie are preserved in a 3,000 acre national monument. Once part of "Captain" James H. Cook's Agate Springs Ranch, the nearby beds are an important source for Miocene epoch mammal fossils. Exhibits explain the fossil story, and an area of exposed fossils may be visited via a self-guided trail. After checking out the exhibits, we decided to check out the 12 minute film being offered.
We noticed today, that this is the third 12 minute film we have seen in a row that we have viewed at National Parks. Exactly 12 minutes each. Do you suppose that this is the attention span of the folks living in the United States??? LOL
The film highlighted the fact that during the 1880s and moving into a new century, scientists would rediscover what the Lakota Sioux and others already knew about--bones preserved in what many paleontologists believe is one of the best preserved Miocene mammal sites in the world.
In fact, Agate is an internationally recognized fossil site. However, as a place, Agate is so much more. The landscape surrounding the fossil beds has been a site of change for millions of years. The relationship between land, weather, ecology and mammals in the Agate area has been a stage of continual change over time.
Agate has also been a home to people like James Cook and his wife, Kate, and great leaders of great nations like Red Cloud and American Horse. Cook, a noted frontiersman, big game hunter & scout first met Chief Red Cloud in 1874. Over the years Cook helped the Oglala & Cheyenne on many occasions, & a steadfast friendship developed between the Cook family & the Indians, who brought them many gifts & told them stories concerning individual items. Today the collection belongs to the park, including pictographs painted on hides (one of a buffalo hunt & one of Custer's Last Stand), saddles, bows, shirts, moccasins, bags, war clubs & pipes.
The monuments Cook Collection of American Indian artifacts reflects years of gifts brought by the Indians during visits to the ranch from the 1880's through the early 1900's. We photographed several of these beautiful gifts, as well as pictures of the ranch at that time, photos taken on the front lawn & even the last picture of Red Cloud taken at age 86. We found it to be so interesting & quite informative. Not what we expected at all! The collection of artifacts gifted by the Indians was amazing. The beadwork exquisite. I really tried to get some decent pictures to share with you. Very difficult to get, poor lighting & the flash caused an occasional glare, but you will get the picture. I hope you enjoy seeing some of our history as much as we did.
Just for your info, we started on the 2 mile hike back to the fossil beds, but about 1/4 of the way there, we realized we were really pushed for time. So we checked out the lily's growing along the river, watched the birds & the bees, checked out the tipi's (including the resident bunny!) & got back on the road. We had already been there almost 2 hours & our arrival time for Custer was now 6:30pm. Ouch...
But, we did recognize that Agate really is a cultural landscape that has evolved over millions of years and reflects many players; from early mammals roaming the valleys and hills, to nomadic nations of the plains, and later tales of life in the American West. A place where people have lived, raised families and died. The record that is preserved in this cultural landscape not only reflects the diverse history of change and evolution, but also the struggles of existence in a region with so many extremes. Agate is truly a place of history & well worth a visit!