State Historical Park
86930 517th Ave. | Royal, NE 68773
Nearly 12 million years ago, volcanic ash engulfed this ancient watering hole, entombing innumerable animals. National Geographic has called Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park the Pompeii of prehistoric animals. Because of its scientific importance, the 360-acre historical park between Orchard and Royal was acquired in 1987 and is a joint project of the Game and Parks Commission and the University of Nebraska State Museum. See paleontologists dig the site and prepare fossils unearthed. Interpretive facilities include a visitor center and rhino barn. Admission is charged in addition to the required Game and Parks vehicle park entry permit.
The Visitor Center features interpretive displays and the working fossil preparation laboratory. Park visitors are invited to ask paleontologists working in the laboratory about their work. Educational programs are presented on regular basis.
This structure protects part of the deposit, where skeletons are uncovered and displayed exactly where they are found. Walkways give visitors a close-up view as paleontologists carefully brush away the volcanic ash from the massive skulls of native American rhinos and the delicate side hooves of tiny ancestral horses.
Illustrations of the creatures discovered at Ashfall Fossil Beds line one wall of the barn, and provide a glimpse for visitors of what life may have looked like on the plains 12 million years ago.
The park offers a mile-long hiking trail through rolling grassy hills.
12 picnic tables and a covered picnic shelter are available at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park.
The Visitor Center and Rhino Barn are open for tours.
A park entry permit is required and may be purchased at the park, statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors or in advance of your arrival online at GoOutdoorsNE.com.
Camping, picnicking and fishing are available at nearby Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area.
A park entry permit is required to visit state parks and may be purchased at the park, statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors, or in advance of your arrival online. View those fees, as well as attraction and amenity pricing.