Agate Fossil Beds & Cook Collection

Photo credit Nebraska Tourism.

(Photo credit Nebraska Tourism)

Nineteen million years ago, strange creatures roamed the savanna that is now western Nebraska. The ancient mammals included tiny, two-horned rhinoceros, the Moropus—a horse/giraffe/tapir/rhinoceros/bear-like creature, and the ferocious 7-foot-tall large tusked pig. Though well known for decades by the Lakota, the first fossils were discovered by Captain James H. Cook in 1878. Cook and his son, Harold, developed a headquarters at Agate Springs Ranch for fellow paleontologists. Skulls and complete skeletons were found in the early 1900s, many of which were housed at the Carnegie Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.

Over the years, Cook and his family fostered friendships with Chief Red Cloud and other members of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. During their visits, the parties would exchange gifts, which Cook concluded should remain with the ranch. The National Park Service Visitor Center houses two rooms of collectables, such as buckskin suits, gloves, one of Red Cloud’s shirts, pipebags and whetstones. Historic photographs accompany several of the artifacts.

Phone: 308-668-2211; Hours: The visitor center and museum is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the off-season and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer season.

Chadron State College 

This is one of several beautiful entrances to the CSC campus. Photo credit CSC College Relations.

This is one of several beautiful entrances to the CSC campus. (Photo credit CSC College Relations)

For more than a century, Chadron State College has helped exceptional students build their futures and soar in their careers.

Chadron State College, which was founded in 1911, is the only four-year, regionally-accredited college in the western half of Nebraska. As a public institution with its roots in teacher education, Chadron State takes pride in its accessibility and affordability. More than 3,000 undergraduate, graduate and online students currently attend Chadron State and its curriculum has grown to offer programs and courses in 65 majors and endorsements and eight master’s degree programs.

Chadron State is located in the scenic Pine Ridge of northwest Nebraska, where outdoor recreational activities abound. Dawes County has been selected as one of the nation’s top 100 counties in which to live and the campus is located just one hour’s drive south of one of America’s most famous landmarks, Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Chadron (pronounced SHAD-ren) is a community of about 6,000 people located on two major highways. With impetus from the college, the town offers many cultural opportunities and its charm makes it a desirable place to attend college and live.

Chadron State cheerleaders lead Eagle fans at a football game.

Chadron State cheerleaders lead Eagle fans at a football game. (Photo credit CSC College Relations)

The Eagles belong to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and NCAA Division II. Intercollegiate competition is available in football, basketball, wrestling, track and field and cross country for men and volleyball, basketball, track and field, cross country, golf and softball for women. For season releases, schedules and tickets click here.

 

Chadron State College Planetarium

A Chadron State student discusses astronomy with fifth-grade students visiting from Roosevelt Elementary in Scottsbluff, Neb. (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College)

A Chadron State student discusses astronomy with fifth-grade students visiting from Roosevelt Elementary in Scottsbluff, Neb. (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College)

The Planetarium at Chadron State College frequently features special Eclipse and Comet Shows. These special events are free to the public.

Public programs are generally offered during the CSC Academic year. Tickets must be purchased from the CSC Conferencing Office in advance of the show unless otherwise stated. All planetarium shows are presented by CSC students and/or faculty.

Hours: open by appointment Aug. 1 – Dec. 1 and February – May, and can service groups of 5-35 people. They can provide multiple shows for your audience if it is a larger group.

For more information, or to schedule your group, e-mail Jennifer Balmat or call (308) 432-6483.

Dawes County Fair

Sponsored by the Dawes County Agricultural Society, the Dawes County Fair has been the place for friends and family to have fun for over 125 years. Each summer, the fair offers free events for visitors, including 4-H exhibits and judging, live music, special events and activities for children, great food, and display of local arts and crafts.

(Photo credit Nebraska Extension Dawes County)

(Photo credit Nebraska Extension Dawes County)

High Plains Herbarium

Located at Chadron State College, the High Plains Herbarium contains the largest collections of ethnobotanical medicinal plants and historic pharmaceuticals in the entire state. Visitors can learn about the plants Native Americans and early settlers used as the main sources for alleviating pain and treating or curing other ailments. Former curator and CSC professor Ronald Weedon expanded the collection during his tenure from 2,400 species to more than 42,000.

Hours: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday year-round with the exception of school holidays. Availability of personnel during the summer may be limited due to field work. The herbarium entrance is room 131 of the Math and Science Building. Group tours are available and should be arranged in advance.

High Plains Homestead

The Dirty Creek Saloon is one of many old-fashioned buildings on the homestead. Now serving California and local Nebraska wines along with beer. Photo credit Nebraska Tourism.

The Dirty Creek Saloon is one of many old-fashioned buildings on the homestead. Now serving California and local Nebraska wines along with beer. (Photo credit Nebraska Tourism)

The High Plains Homestead is a living tribute to the Old West—rugged log buildings including a saloon and mercantile, old-fashioned candy, Native American pottery, a 1900s school house, wagons, windmills, and roaming buffalo. Guests can enjoy the quiet, open prairie with views of the Badlands and the ponderosas of Pine Ridge nearby. While the Homestead closely resembles a Cowtown of bygone eras, it’s not without many modern amenities. The Bunkhouses have private baths, refrigerators, and air conditioning, and there is a pool available for guests to enjoy. To offer total peace, quiet, and relaxation, though, phones and TVs are absent from the rooms; however, the Homestead provides free wireless internet access. Great for family vacations or group hunting trips, the Bunkhouses can accommodate gatherings of up to 20 people.

Owner and operator, Mike Kesselring, cooks up a "cowboy sized" meal. Photo credit Nebraska Tourism.

Owner and operator, Mike Kesselring, cooks up a “cowboy sized” meal. (Photo credit Nebraska Tourism)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served seven days a week at the Drifter Cookshack, as well as sarsaparilla floats, homemade pie, ice cream, coffee and cold beer. Arrangements can be made at the Badlands Mercantile to journey to the Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed or the Toadstool Geologic Park for fossil and rock-hunting excursions. Guests can also enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, and great photo and star-gazing opportunities.

Hudson-Meng Education & Research Center

In 1954, while attempting to dig a stockpond, Nebraska ranchers Bill Hudson and Albert Meng

Students excavate fossil remains of up to 600 bison from 10,200 and 11,200 years ago are at the Hudson-Meng site.

Students excavate fossil remains of up to 600 bison from 10,200 and 11,200 years ago are at the Hudson-Meng site. (Photo credit Nebraska Tourism)

uncovered a large pile of bones. During the 1970s, Dr. Larry Agenbroad of Chadron State College began excavating the site which is believed to be the bonebed of nearly 600 Bison antiquus, an extinct relative of today’s modern bison which perished more than 10,000 years ago. Considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in North America, the Hudson-Meng site has been enrolled on the National Register of Historic Places. Scientists and student excavators have been working with the Forest Service for decades to try to understand the exact nature of this mass kill site and the role that ancient Paleo-Indian people may have played. In 1997, a climate-controlled enclosure was completed to cover the central portion of the bonebed.

This bison kill site and "bonebed" contains fossil remains of up to 600 bison. Photo credit Nebraska Tourism.

This is the view from the top of thebison kill site. The “bonebed” below contains fossil remains of up to 600 bison. (Photo credit Nebraska Tourism)

Visitors can learn more about this mysterious site and the archaeological techniques used to interpret by visiting the Hudson-Meng Education & Research Center.

Phone: 308-432-0300; Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, $3 for kids ages 5 to 12, and kids 4 and under are free.

The Bison Bone Bed Mystery

Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center

Life-size bronze sculpture of Mari Sandoz in front of the Heritage Center. Photo credit Nebraska Tourism.

Life-size bronze sculpture of Mari Sandoz in front of the Heritage Center. (Photo credit Nebraska Tourism)

Also located on the campus of Chadron State College, the Mari Sandoz Heritage Center is dedicated to the life and literature of one of Nebraska’s most important female authors and historians. Considered an authority on Native American culture, Mari Sandoz published numerous essays in defense of the persecuted groups of Cheyenne and Oglala Sioux, proclaiming their high-qualities and championing for just laws and government aid for them. Inspired by the wild frontier where she was born and raised, her short-stories also reflect an interest in homesteading, the harsh landscape, conflict and the importance of women in the West. Exhibits at the High Plains Heritage Center include writings and memorabilia from Mari’s lifetime, paleontology and fossil displays, botanical and wildflower collections and more.

Hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed Sundays and College Holidays; Archives and Collections resources are available to the public by appointment during regular hours.

Post Playhouse

Post Playhouse is Northwestern Nebraska's premiere venue for live theatre, located on Historic Fort Robinson State Park. Photo credit Nebraska Tourism

Post Playhouse is Northwestern Nebraska’s premiere venue for live theatre. (Photo credit Nebraska Tourism)

The Post Playhouse, located at historic Fort Robinson, showcases local and national talent on the stage at one of the top venues for live theatre in the West. Each summer, the Playhouse presents a repertory schedule of concerts, musicals and plays featuring talented and creative professional performers. The Wizard of Oz, South Pacific, Always….Patsy Cline, and Oklahoma! are just a few of the famous shows that have performed at the Post Playhouse in the last decade.

Belmont Tunnel

Located halfway between Crawford and Marsland, NE, the Belmont Tunnel is a 698-foot long railway tunnel whose last train passed through it on May 3, 1982. The tunnel was built in 1888-89 by Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. When construction began in 1888, the contractor, Kilpatrick Bros. & Collins, promised workers $1.50 to $1.74 per day to work. When the workers arrived, they found they would be earning only $0.15 an hour and many returned home while only 1,200 men stayed in Belmont to construct the tunnel.

Belmont Tunnel

Belmont Tunnel

Workers dug the tunnel from both ends and most days they made about 3-feet of progress, but some days, workers dug up to 6-feet through thin strata of rock between compacted sand, which made light blasting necessary for the construction. The debris from the tunnel was taken away in livestock-drawn carts. Timbers that were cut near the railway tunnel were used to support the tunnel. The tunnel wasn’t quite finished when the railroad trackage coming from Alliance to Crawford arrived August 17, 1889. Belmont, which is now a ghost town, served as a temporary railway terminus while workers finished constructing the tunnel on August 25, 1889.

A freight train destroyed a large portion of the tunnel in November of 1917, which sparked a renovation for the tunnel in 1919-20. The timbers and concrete footings were removed and dumped into ravines. The tunnel was then re-bored and an oil derrick poured concrete through holes dug in the roof of the tunnel to reinforce it.

When the overnight train heading from Lincoln to northwest Nebraska was discontinued on August 24, 1969, passenger service on the track stopped, but freight trains still used the railway. In 1980, plans were created to remove the tunnel and construct a larger, double-track line, but it was built west of the old rail line, leaving the tunnel standing. The tunnel is now used by the railway as a service road.