The Ashfall Fossil Beds was something I found looking at the pamphlets in other fossil places. I had no idea what to expect but it looked neat.. Apparently they had a rhino barn. I wasn’t sure what that had to do with anything but that’s alright, I was about to find out.
It was a $5 admission fee per person, plus an additional $4 Nebraska parking permit fee. I guess the Jeep needed admission too. The place was small but had very nice specimens of all sorts of things. They had the evolution of the horse hoof, a fossil turtle, and pieces of diseased bone fragments. Outside I walked a very short path listed with the evolutionary timeline. Soon I found myself in the rhino barn, lined with posters of weird creatures I’d never heard of that they’d found here. There were saber toothed deer, several species of American camels, tons of dog species that there’s no longer an equivalent to, several species of horse, and even a horned rodent that looked almost like a rhino and a gopher got together one strange dark evening.
At the end of the rhino barn three paleontology students worked to brush aside the sand and reveal a mass mortality of rhinos. Apparently a super volcano went off ten million years ago and killed the whole herd, adults, babies, even a fetus. As morbid as it was it was fascinating. Another student loitered at the sides, desperate to be doing something. She said if I had any questions just ask. Her high strung energy was a bit much but I suppose.
Outside was another small building, another girl worked here to pick tiny bones out of the sand, salamander vertebrae, bits of turtle shell, the toes of a desert mouse, the tail of a rattlesnake. I asked her if there was a favorite critter she likes to find. She replied the salamanders made her the happiest. We talked for a while. She seemed enthusiastic and sweet. After this I left. It was a neat little place, definitely worth checking out, even though it made me trek through the most boring stretch of grasslands in the country for hours on end…
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