Why a National Monument?
Did you know that horses actually evolved in North America? The Hagerman Horse, Equus simplicidens, was a bit smaller than the size of a modern horse. Its bones most closely resemble Grevy's zebra for comparision purposes, but it wasn't a zebra.
During the Ice Ages, when ocean levels were lower than today, humans and animals moved between the new world and the old world. Horses migrated into Asia/Europe and Africa only to later become extinct, about 10,000 years ago, in North America. Spanish Explorers later introduced modern breeds of domesticated horses back into North America several hundred years ago.
In 1988, the Hagerman Horse became Idaho's state fossil and Hagerman Fossil Beds became a National Monument. The National Monument contains the Smithsonian Horse Quarry, a National Natural Landmark, recognized as an important site regarding the fossil history of horses.
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument protects one of the world's richest known fossil deposits from the late Pliocene Epoch. The National Monument was established nearly sixty years after the first Smithsonian excavation and given a unique legislative mandate: to provide a center for continuing paleontological research and education.
Today, Hagerman Fossil Beds has a Visitor Center in the town of Hagerman located at 221 N State Street (we're on US Route 30). Here you can get brochures, flyers and other information, watch our park DVD, see fossil displays, explore the Discovery Center, and browse our bookstore.
You can also visit the Monument with its two overlooks. The Snake River Overlook provides a view of the Monument and a section of the Snake River. You can see the multitude of layers and the effects erosion has on the bluffs. The Oregon Trail Overlook has informational wayside panels about the Oregon Trail, and fossils. Careful discovery will reveal views of the ruts from the original travelers on the Oregon Trail. No fossils are on display at either overlook but the views and hike are worth the drive.