Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park | Midwest Living

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

86930 517th Ave. (Ashfall Rd.)
Royal  Nebraska  68773
United States
(402) 893-2000
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Midwest Living Review

Tina King
Remote but active fossil dig site intrigues even those with only the slightest interest in paleontology.

This ongoing dig offers a natural wow factor for those willing to make the trek to its remote location, about 2 miles west and 6 miles north of Royal. A 17,500-square-foot modern barn protects prehistoric mammal bones; windows and temperature controls keep the space bright and comfortable. The paleontologist who first discovered fossils here almost 40 years ago is often on site, and he happily answers questions.The story begins 12 million years ago, he says, when a volcano erupted in what is now southwest Idaho. Ash traveled far, and eventually caused the deaths of the many animals gathered here around a watering hole. It's easy to spot the three-dimensional remains of barrel-bodied rhinos, five species of horses (some with three toes!) and three species of camels. It's more interesting than just a pile of old bones because you see calves next to their mothers and scattered parts stolen by the scavenger animals that also died here. Fact-filled posters depicting the animals adorn the barn walls. The visitors' center prepares you well for all this, with easy-to-understand displays and hands-on exhibits about fossils and earth materials. Hours vary through the open season -- roughly May through October. Admission and a valid Nebraska Park Entry Permit required. Guests should have full stomachs and plenty of gas in their cars before heading to the park. (The park does have ample picnic areas.) Hotel rooms are available an hour away in Norfolk, Nebraska, and tent and cabin camping is available 45 minutes away at Niobrara State Park.

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