If you are passing through Southern Idaho, include a visit to Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Home to a fossil rich area dating back 3-4 million years ago during the Pliocene period, Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is known for it's variety of fossils including saber-toothed cats, mastodons and the Hagerman Horse fossils for which the area is named. The area contains the largest concentration of Hagerman Horse fossils found anywhere in North America and provides an in depth look into the lush wetlands and forests that used to cover Southern Idaho and the ancient animals that used to roam here.
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HAGERMAN FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT VISITOR CENTER
When visiting this Monument, visitors should start off their visit by stopping at the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center. This small but quite impressive museum will provide an depth overview of the fossils that have been found in the area that date back millions of years. Back in the 1930s, a local farmer first came across some of these fossils which led to archaeologists digging up 20 full Hagerman Horse skeletons as well as over 120 Hagerman Horse skulls - with such an abundance of this particular fossil - the area was named after the Hagerman Horse. As you enter the museum you are greeted by a full skeleton of the ancient Hagerman Horse. The museum also contains other fossils and information regarding some of the 200+ plants and species that have been discovered in the area.
SNAKE RIVER OVERLOOK
In addition to the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center, the park also provides two historical overlooks that are worth a stop while visiting the Monument. The first stop is the Snake River Overlook. Head south from the Visitor Center and follow the signs until you reach the first overlook. Here at the Snake River Overlook a couple informational signs provide additional information as you look out over the Snake River and some of the exposed hillsides along the river where fossils have been found.
OREGON TRAIL OVERLOOK
To reach the second overlook in Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, continue a few miles down the road and you will come to the Oregon Trail Overlook. Here you can view a portion of the original Oregon Trail that includes the wheel ruts from the covered wagons. For me - this sounded like a pretty cool stop - growing up I remember playing the Oregon Trail computer game in school and loved the story of this piece of American history. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if we really were able to make out where the ruts of the trail were as we looked out over the scenery.
VISITING HAGERMAN FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
So, is a stop at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument worth it? Yes and no - for us, we love to visit National Parks and try to stop at every park that we can. We happened to have time to plan this stop into our trip to Twin Falls (which is about 45 minutes away). I'm glad we stopped and I found the museum to be quite interesting as I'd never heard of a Hagerman Horse until stopping here. For some people though, this may not be the place to visit - if you not a big National Park person and looking at fossils is not of interest to you - maybe this may not be the place for you. Either way - spending a short time at the museum will provide you with some new found knowledge of the area and it's history - and knowledge is never a bad thing!
For additional ideas of what to do and see near Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument - spend some time exploring Twin Falls, Idaho! This beautiful area sits perched along the canyon rim of the Snake River offering a plethora of outdoor activities including kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, rock climbing, stunning waterfalls and even BASE jumping! CLICK HERE to read how to spend an amazing weekend exploring beautiful Twin Falls, Idaho.