I was fortunate to tour and learn about the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument & Museum that was established on June 14, 1997. It’s, location in Western Nebraska’s Panhandle is surrounded by rolling agricultural and cattle farms in a valley near the Niobrara River.
There is no entrance fee to tour the monument & museum which has walking trails to fossil bed locations. There is no fossil hunting allowed and because of the threat of snakes, it is recommended visitors stay on the walking trail.
Mr. James Cook bought the Agate Ranch from his father-In-Law where he and his wife raised two sons. In the 1880’s Mr. Cook’s natural curiosity was revealed when he discovered fossil bones on the property. His initial thoughts believed they were bones of horses, but the sheer volume caused him to consider other possibilities.
His previous encounters with Professor O. C. Marsh of Yale Univerisity, the nation’s first university-based paleontologist proved to be the catalyst for the discovery of one of the largest fossil finds ever.
James’s oldest son Harold’s exposure to university scholars scouring the land when he was a child searching for fossils, spurred his curiosity leading him into the field of Paleontologist.
For over 54 years members of the Cheyenne Nation along with Lakota leader Red Cloud traveled 150 miles from a Reservation in South Dakota to visit with James Cook at the Agate ranch.
This 12:00 minute US Park video provides further distinct details about the Fossil beds.
For more information about the history and culture of the Agate Fossil Bed Monument, click the link to learn more.