Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in southern Idaho preserves one of the richest fossil deposits from the late Pliocene epoch.
Located just west of Hagerman, the 4,281-acre site is one of the few federally administered fossil sites specifically set aside for paleontological research.
“Hagerman Fossil Beds is home to almost 200 different species of fossil plants and animals,” said Annette Rousseau, education specialist. “The list includes sabertooth cat, a large hyena-like dog, mastodon, otter, bear, camel, ground sloth, cormorant, swans, rabbits and many other species. With new fossil fragments found each year, it is one of the most fossiliferous Pliocene-aged sites in the world. Come explore our visitor center and see some fossils.”
The visitor center in Hagerman has many different fossils on display as well as fossil replicas to examine.
The Hagerman Fossil Beds are known mostly because they contain one of the world’s richest known deposits of fossil horses, Equus simplicidens, thought to be a link between prehistoric and modern horses.
Equus simplicidens, also known as the Hagerman Horse, is the official Idaho state fossil. The monument’s Hagerman Horse Quarry, a national natural landmark, is recognized as one of the most important sites in the world related to the fossil history of the horse.
The Smithsonian Institution directed fossil excavations in the early 1930s. Many other museums and research institutions have conducted research at the site ever since. Over 3,000 new fossil fragments are found each year.
The Oregon Trail crosses the southern portion of Hagerman Fossil Beds and trail ruts can be seen at the Oregon Trail Overlook parking lot. Informational wayside panels present information about the Oregon Trail and fossils.
The Snake River Overlook allows visitors a view of the monument from across the Snake River. Visitors can see the multitude of layers and the effects erosion has on the bluffs.
No fossils are on display at either overlook, but the views and hike are worth the drive.
For more information, call 208-933-4100 or visit nps.gov/hafo.