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Photo1The Wildcat Hills Nature Center serves as the southern gateway to the Fossil Freeway.  Paleontologists working at the nearby Millennium’s End Quarry (discovered in 1999) have uncovered a wealth of small mammal fossils, many of which are depicted in the Nature Center’s 16 foot mural painted by world-famous muralist Jan Vriesen.  The mural depicts life as it would have been 23 million years ago in what is now western Nebraska, displaying ferns, bamboo, and woodlands containing camels, 3-toed horses, rhinos, sling-shot horned deer, tapirs and other animals.  Some of their lineages have since died out, others have evolved into modern creatures, and some of the animals were much the same as they are in present day.  The quarry’s fossils were captured in a bend of a very fast-moving river, which wound its way through what is today’s Wildcat Hills.

A unique feature available at the Nature Center is a 25 million year old fossil discovered in the Nebraska panhandle in 1932 by renowned paleontologist Loren Eiseley.  As though gazing stoically from 25 million years ago, two sabertooth cats, Nimravids, remain intertwined in death.. One cat’s canine tooth is embedded in the other cat’s shoulder blade, the fatal battle from with neither combatant ever escaped.  Another painting by Vriesen depicts the death scene.  Other fossil replicas from the Nebraska State Museum of ancient elephants, large lions, and rhinos that once roamed Nebraska can also be found at the Center. Youth will enjoy the center’s interactive simulated fossil dig site where they can try their hand at excavating fossils on their own.

The Nature Center also provides a collection of local owls, raptors, songbirds, and mammals.  In the main building’s center stands a 27-foot Ponderosa Pine, which extends through two stories of the building.  The interior of a beehive can be viewed, along with the beautiful vistas of the Wildcat Hills area.

A NE State Park permit is required on all vehicles for both the Recreation Area and Nature Center: $4/day, $20/annual. There is also a primitive campground within the park. Overnight camping fee $7.

Address:
PO Box 65
Gering, NE 69341
Telephone:
(308) 436-3777
E-mail:
ngpc.wildcat.hills@nebraska.gov
Website:
Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area

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