If you’re someone constantly on the lookout for new and exciting places to rock and fossil hunt then Nebraska could be exactly what you’re looking for. As a state it doesn’t hold a lot of the variety in minerals that some other mining states do, but what it lacks in valuable rocks and minerals, it makes up for in fossils.
In fact, it has quite a varied list of rocks, gemstones, minerals, and fossils that can be found. Nebraska is one of the most fossil rich locations for mammoth and mastodon so if you’re up for getting your hands dirty you just might find something amazing.
Just arriving in the state doesn’t guarantee that you are in the right location to find what you’re looking for. There are a few places that are known hotbeds for a variety of rocks and fossils and taking the time to visit these prolific areas can up your chances of finding something worthwhile.
Not the most exciting name ever but it fits Nebraska perfectly. The Prairie Agate, also known as a chalcedony stone became the state rock of Nebraska in 1967. Perfect timing for the states 100th anniversary. It makes perfect sense that this stone was given the title of state rock because there is so much of it to be found.
If you’re on the hunt you might want to check areas around the Oglala National Grasslands found in the northwestern region of the state.
Surprisingly, this incredible stone is non-native. The rocks made their way to Nebraska from Wyoming and South Dakota when the sedimentary beds eroded and carried them through rivers and streams to land in Nebraska. You’ll recognize the beige and brown tones of the stone when you go searching but they shouldn’t be difficult to find.
Blue Chalcedony Agate
If you’re looking for an agate that has a bit more pizazz then you might want to also search for the Blue Chalcedony. Technically an agate just like the Prairie agate, it bears a much more striking appearance. The Blue Chalcedony Agate is the state gemstone of Nebraska and can be easily identified by its colorful internal design featuring bright blue and white bands with a clear colorless streak throughout.
Like the Prairie Agate you should have decent luck finding this beautiful stone in the Northwestern area of the state around the Chadron Formation. Sands and claystone were deposited in the area during the time of the Oligocene Age giving the agates an ideal environment to form.
Hunting for this beautiful agates can be fun for adults and children alike due to their abundance. Other rocks and gemstones can be more difficult to search for and can be too tedious for many. These are a great option if you’re looking for a family activity.
Who wouldn’t want to find a great woolly mammoth fossil? Though you’re much more likely to find smaller fossils than an entire skeleton, it isn’t unheard of. People are still finding complete fossils in the most unusual places.
While the woolly mammoth is the state fossil of Nebraska there have actually been three different species found around the state and you can find fossils from any of them. Depending on where you search you could find Woolly mammoth, Columbian mammoth, or Imperial mammoth. Similar in appearance to our common day elephants these incredible mammals were prominent during the Pleistocene Epoch. This period places them between 1.6 million years ago and 10,000 years ago.
During this time the state of Nebraska was mostly covered by glaciers that had stretched down from what is now Canada. Due to the change in the elements prairies developed at the edges of the cool glaciers giving these grazers an ideal place to eat. To find your own mammoth fossils you should look in the western areas of the state near the largest rivers.
The Ashville Fossil Beds
Nebraska’s most well-known fossil occurrences are at the Ashville Fossil Beds. This is an area that was once covered with ash from an erupting volcano in Idaho. The ash moved to the east and covered the area, killing much of the plants and animals that lived there.
The fossils of this prehistoric life are still there today. There are a wide array of fossils that have been unearthed at the Ashville Fossil Beds, including a rhinoceros, many large mammals, birds, turtles, lizards, and many different species of plants. You cannot collect fossils within the National Landmark, but it is an amazing place to visit and learn about Nebraska’s geologic history.