On the trail to biking adventure…the road to the Michelson Trail, part 2: fossils!

Posted: June 16, 2015 in Animals, Family, Travel
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“Ashall Fossil Beds 7 miles.”  I hit the brakes as the sign flashes by and turn north.  The rolling, green hills hide a plethora of fossils, housed in an enormous building. In 1971, the skull of a juvenile rhinoceros was discovered in a cornfield.  Imagine being the person who found that!  Now the area is a Natural National Landmark, still being worked by University of Nebraska student interns as well as others.  Skeletons of rhinos, horses, and camels have been discovered.  Volcanic ash from a volcano in present-day Idaho caused lung failure in the animals who apparently gathered at the watering hole because of the heat and thirst.  Some died with fetuses inside, others with the contents of their stomachs still intact.

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These hills may contain more fossils as yet undiscovered.


Further along, we enter the Sandhills and take another detour to the Arthur Bowring Sandhills Ranch.  In 1894, Arthur homesteaded here on 160 acres, establishing a ranch that was finally 7,500 acres. He and his second wife, Eve, served their community in many various capacities as well as running their ranch. After Arthur died in 1944, Eve ran the ranch herself for 41 years.  Since Bill hasn’t yet ridden in Nebraska, he rides back to the road before we continue on our way.


The Sandhills continue, one of the unique areas of the world.  Again, ranches are out of sight behind the green hills.


We reach South Dakota, but before we check into our motel for the night, we have to make one more fossil stop at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs.  This is a graveyard primarily for woolly mammoths, 61 so far, but there are also remains of a giant short-faced bear, camel, llama, prairie dog, wolf, fish, and numerous other plant and invertebrate fossils.  Today’s been a fossil day, mired in the past.  Tomorrow, we join the 21st century and Bill hits the bike trail.

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Click here for part 1.

  1. jpeggytaylor says:

    Fascinating post – history is full of amazing stuff. These fossils are really impressive – sounds like a wonderful trip.

  2. the fossils are impressing and they are so worth a visit to ponder about the past… (I loved it to watch them, but after our trip to Pompeji I have always a bad feeling in my tummy, that was a little too much for me)

  3. nowathome says:

    The fossils must be quite impressive!

  4. dunelight says:

    We just went through the Sand Hills in late October. They are fascinating. We got out to ‘Car Henge’, Scottsbluff, and a fossil monument just north of there. Mostly we drove backroads and ogled the mile after mile after mile of..well…sand hills. They have a desolate beauty.
    Thanks for sharing your photos. Next time I think we will ride the border between Nebraska and South Dakota with designs on stopping in at Devil’s Tower.

    • Devil’s Tower is well worth the visit. We’ve been there a number of times and always enjoy it. I agree that the Sandhills have a desolate beauty. This year, at least what we could see of them from highway 20 and not being able to meander through them otherwise due to time, everything was a heavenly green from all the rain.


  5. […] On the trail to biking adventure…the road to the Michelson Trail, part 2…fossils! […]

  6. […] On the trail to biking adventure…the road to the Michelson Trail, part 2: fossils! […]

  7. interesting information.

    • It was quite amazing to see so many intact fossils. There were other areas where there were just parts, but mostly the skeletons were intact.