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The Rhino Barn at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

The Rhino Barn at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. Photo: Park Facebook Page.

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is a remarkable destination that provides visitors with a window into the distant past.

Located in northeastern Nebraska, about an hour from Norfolk, the park is home to a rich deposit of fossilized remains that offer a glimpse into the lives of prehistoric animals that roamed the area over 12 million years ago. This unique and fascinating park is a popular destination for paleontologists, educators, and anyone interested in natural history.

What makes the park particularly special is the way in which the fossils have been preserved. The site was once a watering hole that attracted a variety of animals, including rhinoceroses, camels, and horses. When a nearby volcano erupted, a dense cloud of ash covered the area, killing the animals and burying them in it. Over time, the ash hardened into a layer of rock, preserving the bones and teeth of the animals in astonishing detail.

Today, visitors to this Nebraska state park can see the fossilized remains of these prehistoric creatures in situ, as they were found. The site is covered with a protective structure that allows visitors to walk through and observe the fossils up close. The park also features a visitor center, guided tours, interpretive programs, and a fossil preparation lab, which provides a comprehensive understanding of the history and significance of the fossils.

Whether you are a seasoned paleontologist or simply a curious traveler, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is a destination that is not to be missed.

Activities

At Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, visitors can explore the fossil excavation site, take a guided tour, visit the fossil preparation lab, attend interpretive programs and enjoy a picnic.

Outlined below is some further information about all of these activities.

Fossil excavation site at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

The fossil excavation site undoubtedly is the main attraction of this Nebraska state park.

The excavation site contains the remains of over 12 million-year-old prehistoric animals, including rhinoceroses, camels, horses, and birds. It is covered with a protective structure that allows visitors to view the fossils in situ, as they were found.

Visitors can stroll through the excavation site and see the bones of these ancient animals. Interpretive signs provide information about the various fossils and the species that they belonged to, making it a fascinating and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

Fossil preparation lab at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

Over at the fossil preparation lab, paleontologists work to clean and prepare the fossils for study and display.

Guests can watch the paleontologists at work through a large viewing window, observing the intricate process of preparing fossils.

The lab is equipped with specialized tools and techniques that allow for the delicate removal of rock and sediment to reveal the intricate details of the fossils.

On a guided tour you can learn about the various techniques and tools used in the preparation process, as well as the importance of preserving and studying these ancient specimens.

It is a unique opportunity to witness the scientific process behind paleontology and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of fossil preservation.

Interpretive programs at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park offers a variety of interpretive programs to enhance visitors’ experiences and educate them on the history and significance of the fossils.

As well as guided tours of the excavation site, these programs include educational presentations on paleontology and geology, and hands-on activities for children. Patrons can also participate in fossil casting, where they create their own fossil replicas to take home.

Throughout the year, the park hosts special events, such as fossil digs and night sky programs. The interpretive programs provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the ancient history of the area and the importance of preserving fossils for scientific research.

Picnicking at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

With the park is a lovely picnic area for visitors to enjoy a relaxing meal amidst its breathtaking scenic beauty.

The picnic area is located near the visitor center and is equipped with picnic tables, grills, and drinking water. It provides a perfect spot for families and friends to enjoy a meal together after a day of exploring the park.

Visitors can also purchase snacks and drinks from the visitor center’s gift shop to complete their picnic experience.

Pets

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park welcomes pets in designated areas of the park, including the picnic area and parking lot.

However, pets are not allowed in the visitor center or on the fossil excavation site, and they must be kept on a leash at all times. Owners are also responsible for cleaning up after their pets and ensuring they are well behaved.

Camping

Unfortunately there is no camping available at the park. However, there are several campgrounds near Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park that provide convenient and comfortable lodging options for visitors.

The closest campground is Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area, located about 10 miles from the park. This primitive campground offers basic amenities such as picnic tables and fire rings.

Other campgrounds within a 30-mile radius of the park include Willow Creek State Recreation Area and Maskenthine Lake Wildlife Management Area, both of which offer more amenities such as electrical hookups, showers, and modern restrooms.

These campgrounds provide visitors with easy access to the park and the surrounding attractions, making them a popular choice for those looking to spend more time in the area.

Park Location

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park
86930 517th Ave,
Royal, NE 68773
Phone: 402.893.2000

Park Website

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park: