Ashfall State Park, Royal, NE

This park and dig site are relatively new, with the first  skeletal fossil found in 1991. It was a “Barrel -Bodied Rhinoceros”. In fact, only a small portion of the fossils archaeologists are sure lies beneath the surface have been excavated, so while the area you can see/fossils revealed is not huge, it is exciting to imagine what else will be discovered in the future!

Ashfall Outdoor Dig Site

Very cool “working” fossil dig site.  It is literally a huge area of ash bed from a 12 million year old volcanic eruption from a “hotspot” which now, due to continential tectonic plate drift, sits under Yellowstone National Park, providing the energy for all the thermal and quake activity currently going on up there.

 

Ashfall Fossil Beds

When the prehistoric volcano erupted in present-day Idaho, it didn’t immediately kill all the animals fossilized here. Sadly, they died slow, painful deaths as their lungs were abraded and eventually filled with caustic, razor-blade sharp bits of ash, ultimately causing them to suffocate.

 

Ashfall Covered Dig SiteFrom the visitor’s center: “Of the seventeen species of vertebrates recovered from the volcanic ashbed, twelve are mammals. Over 200 fossil skeletons from 12 species of Clarendonian Land Mammal Age have been discovered at the site so far.”

 

 

They have a nice shelter building around a rich dig area with an amazing concentration of fossils from a diversity of animals.  You can watch the Nebraska University students while they excavate!

The entire park is quite small and only takes about an hour to see everything, but it was still worth it.Three Toed Horse

Also, every Nebraska state park charges a $5 entrance fee, but we avoided that by reusing our entrance fee receipt from yesterday’s visit to Niobrara Park.

 

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