Nebraska Game & Parks Commission State Recreation Area and Wildcat Hills Nature Center
Located in the beautiful Wildcat Hills of western NE is the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, 10 miles south of Gering, NE on state Hwy 71. There, among the pine- covered buttes and canyons, are nearly a thousand acres of state park including 3.5 miles of scenic hiking trails. There is a primitive campground and also 3 stone picnic shelters, built by the CCC during the 1930’s. A game reserve sets a large portion of the land aside for wildlife use. Big horn sheep, elk, deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, an occasional lynx or puma, and a wealth of birds reside within the Hills and adjoining lands. Horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, birding, wildflower and wildlife viewing are some of the activities that people can participate in.
The Wildcat Hills has been named a Biologically Unique Landscape by the Nebraska Natural Legacy Plan, as it contains both short-grass prairie, wetlands, and montaine shrubland ecosystems and their respective species.
The focal point of the park is the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, a 2-story educational facility built in 1995 by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission with lots of local financial support. Located within the Center proudly stands a 2-story Ponderosa Pine replica and beautiful murals by local artist Mary Hunt of the Wildcat Hills and nearby Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area depicting their native flora & fauna. Throughout the Nature Center you will find wonderful bird viewing and mounts of indigenous hawks, eagles and owls. In the lower level of the nature center is a diorama of mammals including the recently re-introduced big horn sheep, Canada lynx, bobcat and smaller mammals. There is also an aquarium of local fish and a live beehive, as well as many interactive educational displays.
The newest additions to the Nature Center are fossil collections of western Nebraska on loan from the University of Nebraska State Museum. The focal fossil is Loren Eiseley’s Innocent Assassins, sabertooth cats of 25 million years ago – one’s fang remains, in death, imbedded in the scapula of the other. Next to the cats is a panorama painting, by renowned artist Jan Vriesen, of the animals and plants that would have been found 23 million years ago within the region, as discovered at the nearby Millennium’s End Quarry by Nebraska Department of Roads Highway Salvage Palonetologists, Bruce Bailey & Shane Tucker. Over 60 different animals were discovered at the site, with 8 of them new to science.
Educational programming is available year-round from the staff Outdoor Education Specialist. The Nature Center and State Recreation Area are visited each year by thousands of people and students.
‘Fossil Freeway’ offers paleontology corridor to explore prehistoric fossil finds of Western Nebraska and South Dakota.
Lincoln, Neb. (June 11, 2009) – Travelers on the ‘Fossil Freeway’ of Western Nebraska and South Dakota will find adventure and mystery as they explore a one-of-a-kind highway corridor of prehistoric fossil finds. From Nebraska’s Panhandle to the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Fossil Freeway consists of seven fossil-related sites located between Interstate-80 and Interstate-90. The attractions along this short stretch of highway, each exhibiting rare geologic wonders and paleontology discoveries, allow visitors to step back in time and experience the rich fossil history of the region along one scenic route. Each stop on this passageway features some of the best-preserved fossil mammoths, rhinos, camels, horses, birds, saber-toothed cats and more. Natural wonders include the peaceful scenery and abundant wildlife of the Nebraska Panhandle, the sandstone moonscapes of the Badlands and the mountainous beauty of the Black Hills.