Photo1Scotts Bluff National Monument protects nearly 3,000 acres along the North Platte River in the western portion of the Nebraska panhandle, now a monument in honor of the promontory bluff which acquired its name from an early mountain man named Hiram Scott, who was, according to legend, abandoned and eventually died in the area.  Almost immediately after his death, the bluffs along the North Platte River came to be known as Scott's Bluffs.  A modern Visitor’s Center provides interpretive information about the area’s history, as well as more information about the unique and compelling geological finds within the monument’s boundaries.

The monument district includes the bluff itself which rises 800 feet above the river, exposing more geological time than anywhere in the state. The exposed layers of rocks date from 33 million years before present (BP) in the national monument’s badlands to 22 million years BP on the summit.

During the early to middle Cenozoic, clastic and volcaniclatic sediments from the Rocky Mountain region came to be deposited in low-lying areas (lakes, streams, and floodplains) across the Great Plains. Subsequent uplift and fluvial erosion of the area left behind fossiliferous exposure of Oligocene age, and this activity shaped the land we see today.

Most of the national monument’s fossils are located in its badlands area, where sandstone and siltstone layers of the Orella and Whitney Members of the Brule Formation lie exposed. Silica glass shards are mixed in with the rock layers, leading to a belief that volcanic eruptions may have caused an occasional mass die off of animals. Fossils of ancient horses, camels, rhinos, oreodonts, tortoises, rodents, and trace fossils, such as animal burrows can be found. Several of Scotts Bluff’s fossils have become “type” or indicator fossils.

There are no established trails into the badlands area, but the area is open to the public. Removing any fossil from its surrounding rock and fossil collecting is prohibited.

Scotts Bluff National Monument
190276 Old Oregon Trail
P.O. Box 27
Gering, NE 69341
(308) 436-9700