Thursday, July 21, 2016

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Bones At Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  Nebraska.  August 10, 2014
Copyright © 2016 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

Photo of the Day by A. F. Litt: Day of Several Photos - July 21, 2016

Day three of my focus on stills and blog posts this week, then back to video editing tomorrow.  Rather than getting bogged down for hours on longer posts about individual parks, today I plan on focusing more on single photos and trying to post as much as I can...

Of course, that being said, I am starting the day by breaking this "rule" and throwing up everything I have for Agate Fossil Beds, a small National Monument in western Nebraska, far away from anything and everything...  However, since it is a small park that mostly focuses on the Visitor Center / Museum, I only have a handful of shots to begin with, so I'll close this park out for now.

This was a very cool spot.  While the landscape is not as spectacular as what is found at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument here in Oregon, which could probably qualify for National Monument status even without the fossils, the mixed grass prairie is very pleasant.  But the attraction here is really the bones.

There are no dinosaurs here.  This is a Cenozoic Era (65 million years BP to present) bed featuring large mammals from the Miocene Epoch (23 million years BP to 5 million years BP).  The fossils date to around 19 - 20 million years BP when two small, shallow ponds attracted a large number of animals during a long drought.  Many of these critters would die there.  These ponds have become, through the magic of various geologic processes, the Carnegie and University Hill fossil beds.

Also preserved within the monument are a number of "Devil's Corkscrews" - Daemonelix. These are the dens of the Palaeocastor, an extinct genus of beaver.  The origin of these strange formations was a mystery for quite some time and were first thought to be the fossils of some sort of vegetation or sponge.  Finally, the fossilized remains of  of a beaver were found inside of one of the structures, solving the mystery.

"Devil's corkscrews," Miocene-age burrows of Palaeocastor, discovered in the late 19th century
Circa late 19th or early 20th century.
Posted to flikr / Wikimedia Commons by James St. JohnCC Attribution 2.0 Generic

As I've written so much over the last few days, we just didn't have enough time... Unfortunately, we did not have the time to hike out the Daemonelix Trail to see these formations or to hike up the Fossil Hills Trail to see the fossil beds.

The monument was once part of James H. Cook's Agate Springs Ranch, which still exists across Highway 29.  The fossils were first discovered in the 1890s and Cook was soon hosting teams of researchers from many institutions, including the Carnegie Museum, Yale University, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Cook also maintained great relationships with the local Indians and had a lifelong friendship with Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota.  Over the years he collected many Native American gifts and artifacts, which have become the Cook Collection of Indian Artifacts, on display in the monument's Visitor Center.

According to Wikipedia, "The national monument was authorized on June 5, 1965, but was not established until June 14, 1997. The Harold J. Cook Homestead (Bone Cabin Complex) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977."

The bone cabin was the Cooks' original residence and used, after 1914, a   It has been restored to its 1910 condition.

The Bone Cabin, used during twenty-five years of fossil excavations at the Agate Fossil Beds
Harold J. Cook Homestead Cabin, more commonly known as Bone Cabin, located on south side of Niobrara River at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
Photo by Ammodramus, CC0 ; Taken on August 16, 2012

Agate Fossil Beds is one of a series of "sister" national parks and monuments that focus on Cenozoic Era fossils, or have large beds of Cenozoic fossils.  These sister parks are Hagerman Fossil Beds NM in Idaho, Fossil Butte NM in Wyoming, Badlands NP in South Dakota, Florissant Fossil Beds NM in Colorado, and John Day Fossil Beds NM.  In fact, one of the rangers was excited to hear that were were from Oregon because of the John Day Fossil Beds monument and asked if we had spent any time there.  Of course we have!

Flowers at the Daemonelix Trailhead
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  Nebraska.  August 10, 2014
Copyright © 2016 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

The Bone Cabin (Cook Homestead) At Agate Fossil Beds
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  Nebraska.  August 10, 2014
Copyright © 2016 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

Where the Fossils Hide, University and Carnegie Hills...
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  Nebraska.  August 10, 2014
Copyright © 2016 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

Large Mammal Skeletons On Display
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  Nebraska.  August 10, 2014
Copyright © 2016 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

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