Trailside Museum marks 50th anniversary

The Trailside Museum of Natural History at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford is now open for its 50th anniversary season. Trailside has been a branch museum of the University of Nebraska State Museum since 1961.

To celebrate this milestone, the Trailside Museum added a new rock shop featuring minerals from all over the world and adjusted its hours of operation in order to better meet the needs of visitors.

These changes are part of ongoing efforts to enhance the museum, including the recent installation of a new paleontology exhibit featuring art by Mark Marcuson and a new cast of a 3-toed fossil horse (Cormohipparion).

New Trailside Museum visitor hours: * Spring: April through May 29: Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (MDT). * Summer: Memorial Day (May 30) through Labor Day (Sept. 5): Open Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (MDT). Open Labor Day. * Fall: Sept. 6 through Oct. 31: Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (MDT). * Winter: Nov. through March: CLOSED except by appointment.

Trailside was established in 1961 under the leadership of Museum Director C. Bertrand Schultz (1941-1973). The museum exhibits represent vertebrate fossils, plant life, geology, and other natural history objects of western Nebraska and the Fort Robinson area. Trailside’s showpiece exhibit depicts two battling Ice Age mammoths with tusks locked together in a permanent death grip. The two bull mammoths were discovered in the summer of 1962 in the Little Badlands formations near Crawford.

After being tucked away for over 40 years in the State Museum’s research facility on the UNL campus, the decision was made to return the skeletal remains of the ancient beasts back to western Nebraska. Trailside’s dramatic “Clash of the Mammoths” exhibit opened in the summer of 2006, and continues to serve as a key attraction for tourists.

Mike Voorhies, Curator Emeritus for Vertebrate Paleontology at the State Museum, led the field party that discovered and excavated the one-of-a-kind fossils.

“I was a senior at the University of Nebraska at the time. On rainy days when we weren’t out collecting fossils in the field, we worked in the Trailside Museum and put together the original displays,” he said. “It’s fun for me to see how the place has grown over the years.”

Plans are in place to make additional improvements to Trailside in the future to further enrich the visitor experience and educate the public on the wonders of the region.

“I hope Trailside will continue to be a great example of the outstanding natural history discoveries that are made in the Pine Ridge and Badland areas of Nebraska,” said Voorhies. “I suspect that the museum will remain a focal point for people in northwest Nebraska who are interested in their own natural history. People out there have a lot of pride in their own area. And it’s a great place to bring their kids.”

Historical Highlights:

*July 3, 1961: Trailside Museum was dedicated and opened for visitors *Summer, 1962: Discovery of two bull mammoths with tusks locked together near Crawford *August 4, 2006: Grand opening of the new “Clash of the Mammoths” exhibit *Summer, 2006: Completion of “Clash of the Mammoths” mural by artist Mark Marcuson *Spring, 2010: Installation of a new paleontology exhibit of 18 paintings by artist Mark Marcuson, featuring scientific reconstructions of Nebraska's amazing prehistoric animals

For more information about Trailside’s history, exhibits, and visitor information visit www.trailside.unl.edu .

The Trailside Museum of Natural History is located at historic Fort Robinson State Park, three miles west of Crawford on Highway 20, about two hours from Interstate 80. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children 5-18 (4 and under free), and $6 for families (up to two adults with children). A Nebraska State Park permit is required for entry, $4 one-time, $20 annual.

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