Article Summary: Nebraska National Parks
Nebraska National Parks! We’ve got five incredible national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the cornhusker state.
Nebraska National Parks includes ancient fossil beds, incredible historic sites, magnificent monuments, gorgeous rivers and so much more.
Not to mention biking, boating, canoeing, hiking, rafting, riding, tubing and many more fun activities.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
We’re going to give you five reasons why you’ll want to make Nebraska your next vacation destination.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to the Cornhusker State then one book I highly recommend is: Detour Nebraska: Historic Destinations & Natural Wonders by Gretchen M. Garrison.
To be clear, these are national park sites (as in managed by the National Park Service) but they are not capital letter National Parks. There are only 63 of those (so far).
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
Table Of Contents: Nebraska National Parks
Nebraska National Parks
- Nebraska National Parks
- More Nebraska National Parks
- More Nebraska National Parks
- Nebraska National Parks FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of Nebraska National Parks
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Nebraska National Parks
1. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Nebraska National Parks features some amazing places to explore. If you love history, like I do, then it doesn’t get any better or older than full skeletons of extinct Miocene mammals.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument covers an area of 3,055 acres and is situated in the valley of the Niobrara River.
The main attraction of the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is the large number of fossilized mammal bones and ancient artifacts that have been found in the area. These fossils date back to the Miocene epoch, around 20 million years ago, and provide valuable information about the evolution of mammals and the natural history of the Great Plains region.
Visitors to the monument can explore a number of hiking trails, which wind through the scenic landscape and provide access to areas where fossils have been found. The monument also features a museum, which showcases a variety of fossils, as well as exhibits on the history of the area’s indigenous peoples.
In addition to its scientific and historical significance, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is also known for its natural beauty. The area is home to a variety of wildlife, including bison, pronghorn antelope, and numerous bird species.
The monument is a popular destination for nature lovers, history buffs, and anyone interested in exploring the unique geology and ecology of the Great Plains region.
You Have To See It To Believe It And See It You Can At Agate Fossil Beds
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is known for its well-preserved fossil beds from the Oligocene Epoch, around 20-30 million years ago.
The fossils found at the site include those of extinct mammals such as Paleocastor, a beaver-like rodent with powerful clawed forelimbs for digging; Stenomylus, a gazelle-like camel that stood about two feet tall; Menoceras, a three-toed rhinoceros; Monoceras, a common mammal that may have roamed the plains in large herds; and Parahippus, an ancestor of the modern horse.
The fossils were preserved in a waterhole, which provided the ideal conditions for the preservation of the remains.
Discovery Of The Fossils
Agate Springs Ranch, owned by James and Kate Cook, was the place where the original discovery of the petrified bones of a mammal was made. This happened in the 1880s.
In 1892, Professor Erwin H. Barbour of University of Nebraska arrived. He was the first scientist to examine the strange “Devil’s Corkscrews of Agate.” These were later identified as the fossilized burrows of Paleocastor.
It’s Not Jurassic Park, But Still Well Worth The Visit
Twelve years later, Olaf Peterson of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg became the first professional paleontologist to excavate in the ‘great bonebed’ in the Fossil Hills.
Now you can travel back 23 millions years to see these incredible creatures. You will find them at the visitor center.
It’s not Jurassic Park, but it’s still well worth the visit. And, the best news of all is that you don’t have anything to fear from these creatures.
Experience A Different Perspective On Native American History
Visitors can also see an amazing collection of Northern Plains Native American artifacts.
You can explore the Lakota and Cheyenne culture by checking out the James H. Cook collection of gifts from Chief Red Cloud.
These gifts were given by the Lakota to James Cook when they visited him at the Agate Springs Ranch.
While you’re there, you can see Chief Red Cloud’s shirt and moccasins.
Artifacts on display at the visitor center museum include as Crazy Horse’s whetstone, American Horse’s war club from the Fetterman Fight, and much more!
2. Homestead National Historical Park
So much history! So little time! Here’s another of the wonderful Nebraska National Parks that you’ll definitely want to experience.
Homestead National Historical Park was established to commemorate the Homestead Act of 1862, which provided land to American citizens and encouraged westward expansion and settlement in the United States.
The Homestead Act allowed people to claim up to 160 acres of public land if they agreed to live on and cultivate the land for at least five years. This legislation opened up vast areas of the West to settlement, and the park preserves the story of one of the first homesteads established under the act.
Learn About The History Of The Homestead Act
The park includes a visitors center with exhibits on the history of the Homestead Act and the homesteading experience, as well as a reconstructed homestead cabin and other historic structures. Visitors can also explore the park’s nature trail, which provides a glimpse into the prairie ecosystem, and see a working replica of a one-room schoolhouse.
In addition to its historical significance, Homestead National Historical Park is also known for its natural beauty, with rolling prairies, tallgrass, and wildflowers that are typical of the Great Plains.
The park is a popular destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and families, and offers a unique glimpse into the history of the American West and the story of the homesteaders who helped settle the region.
The park was expanded in 1992 to include additional land and resources related to the history of the Homestead Act, including the Homestead Heritage Center, which is a living history farm that demonstrates the daily lives of homesteaders in the late 19th century.
More Nebraska National Parks
3. Missouri National Recreational River
Among the Nebraska National Parks where history takes a backseat to nature my favorite is the Missouri National Recreational River.
The Missouri National Recreational River was established to preserve the natural beauty and unique cultural and historical resources of the Missouri River and to provide recreational opportunities for the public.
The Missouri National Recreational River is centered around the Missouri River, which is the longest river in North America and a major waterway that played a crucial role in the settlement and development of the American West.
The river is renowned for its scenic beauty, with dramatic bluffs, rolling prairies, and lush forests, and is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and wildlife watching.
In addition to its natural beauty, the recreational river is also home to a rich cultural and historical heritage, with historic sites, including Fort Randall Dam, a former army fort, and the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, which highlights the story of the famous explorers and their journey up the Missouri River.
Visitors can also explore the park’s hiking trails and campgrounds and enjoy ranger-led programs and special events throughout the year.
4. Niobrara National Scenic River
When it comes to breathtaking scenic river, here’s one of the Nebraska National Parks which doesn’t fail to deliver. Of course, I’m referring to the Niobrara National Scenic River.
The Niobrara National Scenic River was established as a National Scenic River in 1991 to protect its unique and valuable scenic, recreational, geological, fish and wildlife, historical, and cultural resources.
The Niobrara National Scenic River is centered around the Niobrara River, which is renowned for its clear, fast-moving waters and stunning scenic beauty, with dramatic cliffs, lush forests, and rolling prairies.
The river is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and wildlife watching, and is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, including several species of fish found nowhere else in the world.
In addition to its natural beauty, the Niobrara National Scenic River is also significant for its cultural and historical resources, with historic sites, including the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, which highlights the story of the famous explorers and their journey up the Missouri River, as well as several Native American sites that provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of recreational activities in the Niobrara National Scenic River, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching, as well as ranger-led programs and special events throughout the year.
More Nebraska National Parks
5. Scotts Bluff National Monument
Whatever you happen to be looking for you’ll likely find it among the Nebraska National Parks.
Scotts Bluff National Monument was established in 1919 to commemorate the history and natural beauty of the region and to preserve the rich cultural and historical resources of the area.
Scotts Bluff National Monument is centered around a series of large rock formations, known as bluffs, that rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. These bluffs were a landmark for pioneers traveling along the Oregon, California, and Mormon Pioneer trails, and the monument preserves this important piece of American history.
Visitors to the monument can explore its rich cultural and natural resources, including historic sites, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks. The visitors center provides a wealth of information about the history and geology of the bluffs, and ranger-led programs and special events are offered throughout the year.
Nearly Four Miles Of Hiking Trails
You will find almost four miles of hiking trails at the Scotts Bluff National Monument. Please remember to stay on the trails at all times however.
The rock along Summit Trails and Saddle Rock Trail is soft and crumbly; leaving the paved trails can be extremely dangerous.
William Henry Jackson Collection
He was also a gifted artist whose drawings and paintings provide valuable insights to life in a time when America was suffering through the Civil War and venturing westward in search of a national identity.
Scotts Bluff National Monument houses the world’s largest collection of original William Henry Jackson sketches, paintings, and photographs. (Source: National Park Service)
Seeing The Flora & Fauna At Scotts Bluff
Scotts Bluff National Monument is one of the few places in the Panhandle of Nebraska where wildlife is protected in a natural environment.
There you will find various species of reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals and invertebrates.
Wildlife commonly seen include coyote, mule deer, prairie dogs and rattlesnakes.
You can also find a variety of plants including Plains Prickly Pear, Ponderosa Pine, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Soapweed Yucca and Winterfat.
The River Of No Return – Check Out Our Film
In the heart of Idaho lies America’s largest (and most breathtaking) contiguous Wilderness area outside of Alaska, The Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness.
Steep canyons, pristine forests, untouched Wilderness, incredible wildlife, and world-class whitewater rafting comprise this epic 2.3 million acre road-less area.
This film was shot in the heart of the remote Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness on one of America’s premiere Wild & Scenic Rivers, the middle fork of the Salmon.
This short film highlights the unique, rugged beauty of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and explains the delicate balance between visitors and the wilderness.
Nebraska National Parks FAQ
Whether you’re seeking the ultimate in modern conveniences in a picturesque outdoor setting or want to get back to nature amid the unspoiled beauty of the wilderness, you’ll find just that within Nebraska’s eight state parks.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. With over two million visitors every year, it’s a popular destination while visiting Nebraska. With over 130 acres, you’ll need to plan for an entire day at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium to see just a fraction of the exciting things that it has in store.
The following is a list of the must-see historic sites in Nebraska:
Homestead National Historical Park
Missouri National Recreational River
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Niobrara National Scenic River
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Father Flanagan’s Boys Home
Captain Meriwether Lewis
William Jennings Bryan House
Willa Cather House
Ash Hollow Historical Park
George W. Norris House
Why Trust Us About Nebraska National Parks?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of Nebraska National Parks
List Of Nebraska National Parks
- Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
- Homestead National Historical Park
- Missouri National Recreational River
- Niobrara National Scenic River
- Scotts Bluff National Monument
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!