A mural depicts a “Clash of the Titans,” two massive, bull Columbian mammoth locked in battle. On display in front of the mural are the actual skulls and tusks still interlocked, more than 10,000 years later. The site is Nebraska’s Little Badlands in the extreme northwest corner of the state. The fossils were uncovered in Dawes County in the summer of 1962; today they’re on display at the Trailside Museum of Natural History in Ft. Robinson State Park.
Research tells us that the two mammoths were both males about 40 years old and the battle probably occurred in the spring mating season when testrostrone levels were high. Both of the combatants had one previously broken tusk which enabled them to use the other as a saber. At some point in the battle the tusks become entangled and the two fought until one fell dragging the other down. Unable to regain footage the “mating game” led to their deaths. There they laid from the ice age until the 20th Century.
This dramatic display contains some of the rarest of fossil finds – internaitonal treasures. As we enter the University of Nebraska affiliated museum the skeletal remains of one of the mammoths (with casted skull and tusks) gives us an amazing view of how large these mammals were. While the museum is not large it is packed with quality displays and information. The volunteers when we visited were real knowledgable assets for visitors. Other fossils found in Nebraska on display are an ancient rhino, giant tortoise and a mosasaur skull. When visiting be sure to take the stairs to the balcony for an overview of the full-standing mammoth.
When You Go: Trailside Museum of Natural History at Ft. Robinson State Park, 3 miles west of Crawford, NE, 308-665-2929, www.trailside.unl.edu.
Pulling into the parking lot of the Museum of the Fur Trade I had my doubts. Was this worth the time and admission fee? The sign, building and nearly empty parking lot did nothing to entice but we had driven out of our way to get there so felt compelled to pay a visit. I’m so glad we did.
The museum is filled with artifacts telling the story of the North American fur trade economy. Decades before any gold rush, trappers and traders followed water routes into the continent’s interior seeking furs which were in demand in Europe and the Eastern US. A short video, played upon request, sets background for a museum visit. While not all the displays are exhibited to their best advantage the quality of the collections are without question.
My husband was impressed with the firearms collection focusing on guns made for trade with the Indians, known as North West Guns. I found the textile room particularly impressive and comprehensive; including a 1775 point blanket, 19th-century Navajo chief blankets, Rio Grande serapes and calicos – popular trade cloth with the native population.
The museum is built on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post established for the American Fur Company in 1837. A reconstructed post built on the original foundation is recognized on the National Registry of Historic Places. A short path circles past the trading post (stocked with typical trade goods of the period), a storeroom, fur press and red-topped tipis symbolizing the Sioux who camped here when they came to trade. Gardeners will find the Heirloom Indian Garden with plantings of midget Mandan tobacco, Assiniboin flint corn and Arikara watermelon of interest. Any surplus seeds are available for purchase.
The gift shop was another pleasant surprise with the quality and variety of authentic wares. There was a rare carved Patty Fawn bracelet I had a hard time passing up even though it didn’t fit. I have since noted that many items are available to purchase online, a resource to remember. The book selection on all related subjects is extensive.
Was it worth it? Let’s just say we were there until closing and I would go back in a heartbeat.
When You Go: Museum of the Fur Trade, located 3 miles east of Chadron, Nebraska on US Highway 20, http://www.furtrade.org.
After hours of drive time and an afternoon thunderous rain storm our reward was an entertaining evening at the Post Playhouse located at Nebraska’s Fort Robinson State Park. A tradition since 1967, each summer a professional cast and crew present several musical productions in a repertory schedule. We saw My Way: a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. Four vocalists, pianist and a musical trio shared 57 songs ‘Ol Blue Eyes recorded during his legendary career – a trip down memory lane.
No fancy dress required for the quaint theater evening, jeans and boots perfectly acceptable. Bob liked the fact he could crunch down on a bag of popcorn.
Other productions during the 2014 season include School House Rock Live!, Guys & Dolls, The Sound of Music, and 9 to 5: The Musical. Next time we’ll plan to stay several days at this outstanding state park and attend multiple shows at the Post Playhouse.