And the Ashfall Fossil Beds…

Somewhere in the northern part of Nebraska… nestled between grass-covered hills… is a prehistoric watering hole where animals caught in a super volcano were fossilized.  The site is far enough away from the volcano, itself that death wasn’t instant. They died over the course of weeks after the eruption.

This is a working dig site, and if you’re lucky (or prepared) you can catch the paleontologists at work.


Bronze Statue, Two Rhinoceroses


The Rhino “Barn”… because calling it a Rhino death-house would be too honest.


Three Toed Horse.


To give you an idea of the size of the place, the excavation from a distance.


Immortalized in Bronze


Not so immortal. Here’s a fossil Tortoise.


Rhino Fetus under glass. Forgive the glare.


The Landscape around the park. There are a lot of acres to hike in.


This one was a little tough to find. Not many markers, and even the small towns nearby don’t seem to celebrate their catastrophic event de celebre. There were a handful of other people, mostly in the barn and the paved trails, and past that, I didn’t see anyone.


  1. Reply

    Ohh… I’d love to go there. When I grow up, I want to be a paleontologist… Thanks for the pictures – the site looks amazing. How old is it supposed to be?

    • Reply

      They estimate the volcano was about twelve million years old, but some of the fossils are older than that. Every now and then, you’ll find marine fossils from back when Nebraska was an ocean.
      One of the things I didn’t photograph is the path around the barn, which is done to be a timeline. Every step takes you back thousands of years, and all of human history is a two inch, red line at the beginning of the path.
      Let me know, if you do decide to come.

  2. Arlee Bird


    This sounds like an interesting place. I really like Nebraska a lot and used to go there every year for about a week or so. Never made it to the area where the fossil beds are located, but I guess the place wasn’t open until after I’d spent my times in Nebraska. There are so many things in this nation that have yet to be discovered or explored to the fullest extent. Glad someone thinks it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    • Reply

      We’d be glad to have you back, any time. The fossil beds as an open attraction are the last twenty-years or so. Before that, it was a lot more obscure, and not so well-funded. The main barn and museum area are an easy walk–actually wheelchair accessible. There’s a range with the hiking paths, but they all seem to be tall grass prairie type things.

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