Nebraska April 08, 2016
Visiting This One Place In Nebraska Is Like Experiencing A Dream
Going back in time is nothing more than a dream…right? In the literal sense, sure. We’ll never actually travel back to a prehistoric Nebraska. But at
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park near Royal, you can actually see an ancient moment frozen in time.
Nearly 12 million years ago, a massive volcanic eruption in southwest Idaho brought a thick blanket of ash down over what is now Nebraska. The initial fall didn't kill all of the animals in the area, however - that happened over time as the animals breathed in the ash until it caused their lungs to fail.
This particular site was once a watering hole, and the animals that had gathered around to find fresh water fell where they stood, their skeletons perfectly preserved. Some even had their last meals in their stomachs. The fossils include those of rhinos, horses, camels, birds, dogs, and even a species of saber-toothed deer. Yes, camels and rhinos once roamed the place we now call home.
The very first fossil discovered here was that of a juvenile rhinoceros at the edge of a corn field in 1971. Excavation has continued since then, and in 1991 the site was designated Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park.
Ashfall is unlike most paleontological sites in that it is active and open for observation, and there are no plans to remove these skeletons from where they lie today. New discoveries are regularly made, so no two trips to Ashfall are ever the same.
The Visitor Center is full of information not only about the ancient animals whose skeletons are preserved here, but about the amazing ongoing efforts to excavate the site. You'll see details about the types of animals that once lived in the area and even see some artistic interpretations of what Nebraska looked like before the ash fell.
One of the newer spots in the complex is the Dickinson Fossil Heritage Center, opened in 2012. The 1,520-square-foot building features a special fossil dig just for kids and exhibits on area history.
The Hubbard Rhino Barn is where the excavation actually takes place. The sheltered location keeps the delicate skeletons intact and helps keep workers and visitors comfortable.
This video provides some more information about the site and its fascinating history.
The site is currently closed for the season but will reopen on May 3, 2016.
So you still can’t travel back in time for real, but walking through the excavation site at Ashfall might be the next best thing. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind experience that you need to have at least once in Nebraska. Have you ever visited?