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Getting away from it all at Agate Fossil Beds

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 4:33 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you are looking for a beautiful area that highlights ranching and Native American history, then a visit to a western Nebraska national monument is for you.

We recently caught up with Dan Morford, who is the superintendent at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. He says Agate Fossil Beds is about 58 miles north of Scotts Bluff National Monument. Morford happens to be the superintendent of both Scotts Bluff National Monument and Agate Fossil Beds.

“Agate Fossil Beds is really a unique place,” Morford said. “It’s a great opportunity for folks to learn about fossils, and things that went on about 20 to 65 Million years ago.”

Morford says the site is not a dinosaur site, but rather features the next era. Fossils that have been discovered at Agate Fossil Beds over time have been such animals as pre-historic rhinos or camels.

“What the site is really known for is the collection of bones that were there, because the fossil hills area was one of the last areas known to have a water hole,” Morford said. “All these animals came in. There were some catastrophic things that happened environmentally, and they ended up dying in that area. That allowed us to uncover those bones. The visitors center does a great job of telling that story. We have replicas of the bones. It does tell an important story of the area when it was found by the landowners back in the mid-1800′s. They realized this was something kind of special.”

There are really two stories being told at Agate Fossil Beds, one is of the fossils, and one is of the connection between Chief Red Cloud and the Cook family.

“The Cook family owned the land,” Morford said. “Through a variety of events, James Cook and Red Cloud became friends. Many times throughout the year, Red Cloud and others would come to the ranch and set up their teepees. Red Cloud and Cook became really good friends. Through that friendship, Cook actually became a liaison for the American Indians and Red Cloud to Washington. That friendship led Red Cloud’s family and others to give Cook gifts. The Cook family donated a number of these genuine made pieces, including bows, arrows, clothing, and moccasins. This collection is now on display at the Agate Fossil Beds visitors center and highlights the Cook family connection. I believe it’s one of the best collections of its kind in the country.”

For more information on Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, you can go to the monument website at nps.gov/agfo. That website has times for when you can visit the park and the visitors center. Hours do vary between summer and winter.>

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