Completed: September 27, 2013
This was my third visit to this site, but the first time to complete the Junior Ranger program. I did not spend as much time as I have previously. It was cold and blustery so walking the trails was not enticing. I spent time in the Visitor Center which does a great job of interpreting the unique ancient mammals highlighted at this unit. In addition there is a spectacular display of Native American artifacts collected by the early land owner, James Cook. He had befriended Red Cloud, chief of the Ogalla Sioux. The craftsmanship of the items is visually stunning.
James H. Cook collection
This Junior Ranger program uses your age divided by 2 to determine the number of activities to complete. Luckily there were not the number of activities based on that formula that would have been required of my age! I did complete all fourteen pages. Throughout the booklet there are symbols indicating activities as; easy medium or hard, so all ages can work on age-appropriate items.
The fossils at this site are fascinating, not the usual dinosaurs, but prehistoric mammals preserved in layers of rock and sediment. My favorite was the Paleocaster, an early beaver. On a short nature trail, I previously hiked, the large spirals made by this animal are preserved.
Several pages highlight the Native American history intwined with this land, including a creation of your own winter count, a hide with drawings keeping track of time and events.
I enjoyed one of the final pages titled “Field Journal”, a opportunity to record observations made during your visit. Looking back at it, many months since I visited, it reminds me of the cold weather. I recorded that it was the mid-40s with a strong breeze. I also recalled previous visits and the hikes that brought me along the Niobrara River, a small stream in this park and the beautiful yellow flowers along the banks.
Even though this is a small site, compared to other National Park sites, it has a good variety of experiences that make it worthwhile to visit more than once. I’ll be back, again!