A couple weeks ago, Jacob and I (Timmy was in NY visiting Grammy and Grampy) headed out with our friends and neighbors, Shannon, Brandon, Connor and Dean to the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Park, which is near the small town of Royal, Nebraska.
We had learned about it from our visits to Morrill Hall State Museum in Lincoln, there’s a room dedicated to the skeletons assembled from Ashfall, along with an advertisement for the facility.
Ashfall isn’t close. About 180 miles from Bellevue, and well over 3 hours worth of driving each way. So Shannon and I aimed for a 7am departure time, and headed out.
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Not only is Ashfall not close, but the nearby towns are VERY small. However, the drive is very scenic and really not that bad. My GPS gave me some problems because it didn’t have a couple of by-passes in the system and we had some adventures going off road looking for the right way.
Once we arrived, we explored the visitor’s center and the scenic trails:
We then headed to the “Hubbard Rhino Barn”, which was a huge building expressly built over the active site. The building was completed in June 2009, over an area that had been worked on for 12 years, and there’s probably 20+ more years of work enclosed in the building. I imagine a single winter up there could undo a lot of the archeologists’ work during the warm season. This was a pretty cool facility…it’s not all that interesting just watching scientists gently brushing away at skulls for hours at a time, though. Lucky for us, we got to see one of the senior paleontologists chiseling away at some extra-compressed soil:
Like I’d said before, this place is really truly in the middle of nowhere. And it isn’t huge. We visited everything in about 2 hours. But I was in awe of how many cars were parked here.
I talked to a couple families, one of whom had arrived in a Chevy, I mean, Chevrolet Suburban with California plates and California Angels stickers decorating it. I was curious as to how folks knew about this place. One of the families was bringing their teenagers on a “dinosaur fossil” vacation! Whoa. Inside the visitor center I had learned more about all the fossil sites in Nebraska, and the California family was planning to visit several of them.
So there’s this “Fossil Freeway” in Western Nebraska which has 8 sites to visit, from which you can turn east on U.S. 20 and head towards Ashfall.
I never considered a “fossil vacation”. Fascinating. Would you or your kids be interested in a fossil vacation???
See more pictures from our day in Ashfall here.