Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in Nevada is one of the newest additions to the National Park Service, having been established in 2014 as a national monument. Given its recent addition to the park service, the site is still under developed and there is little in the way of interpretative or visitor services. It is one of four National Park Service Sites in Nevada.
Tule Springs was created as a national monument primarily because of a large number of fossils dating back to the last ice age which can be found on the site. The site is an ancient river bed, so many bones and fossils were washed into the area. A park ranger told me that while digging a hole for an electrical pole, thousands of fossil fragments were found in the single hole that was dug. Because it was a former river bed, the fossils which are there tend to be small and fragmented, not large intact skeletal remains that can be found in other paleontology sites. Nonetheless, evidence of large mammals can be found on the site including lions, mammoths, camelops, saber toothed tigers, bison and wolves.
The other reason why the site was established is that it served to halt the spread of the city of Las Vegas. The site is literally located across the street from the northernmost houses in Las Vegas. It effectively serves as the northernmost limit for expansion of the city.
Prior to the creation of the national monument, the area was used by locals for dumping, shooting and for off-road vehicles. As a result, you can still find a great deal of litter in the area, far more than you will see at most national park service sites. It is expected that this will be cleaned up over the next several years.
How to Get There
The site is very easy to reach if you are in Las Vegas. From the Strip, take I-15 north to Highway 95 north. Exit Highway 95 on Durango Drive and go north. At the end of Durango Drive, when you can’t go any further, you will find a small parking lot and small signs for Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. Everything north of the parking area is part of the national monument.
Visitor Center, Fees, Park Stamps, and Hours of Operation
The monument has no formal operating hours and it is accessible 24-hours a day. Likewise, there is no entry fee and there is no park staff located on site.
There is also no formal visitor center for the site as of yet.
The visitor centers for the Lake Meade National Recreation Area and the nearby Desert National Wildlife Refuge have passport stamps for the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is much closer than Lake Mead, but it is part of the Fish and Wildlife Service, not the National Parks Service.