Waco Mammoth National Monument
Flickr/Jay Galvin

This National Monument in Texas Lets You Step Back Into the Ice Age

Did you know that thousands of years ago, 14 foot tall and 20,000 pound Columbian mammoths roamed around present-day Texas? Central Texas is home to the first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of mammoths dating back to the Ice Age, making it one of the most significant discoveries in North America.

Back in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin were looking around the city of Waco's Bosque River in search of arrowheads or fossils. They found a rather unusually large bone and decided to take it to Baylor University's Strecker Museum to see what they found. The museum identified it as a Columbian Mammoth's femur bone and immediately ordered an excavation of the site.

The remains of 16 mammoths were discovered between 1978 and 1990 and an additional six between 1990 and 1997. Recent research has shown that roughly 65,000 and 72,000 years ago, a nursery herd of nearly 19 mammoths drowned by the flood waters of the Bosque River in addition to many other animals remains that were located at the site (including a giant tortoise and saber-toothed cat). In 2015, President Obama established the Waco Mammoth National Monument as part of the National Park Service.

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Today, you can visit the Waco mammoth site where guided tours educate visitors on the Ice Age, the mammoth discovery and show the original dig site where some of the remains are in situ (still in the original bone bed). Climate controlled dig shelters protect the remains and allow visitors and further study. The tours are only $5 for adults and are held every 30 minutes, lasting 45 minutes to an hour.

Tours start at the Visitor Center and lead you down to the Dig Shelter. If you feel compelled to see more, the remains excavated through 1990 can be seen at Baylor's Mayborn Museum Complex (formerly the Strecker Museum).

The Waco Mammoth Foundation supports the site and continues the scientific study of the remains. Who knows what else they'll find as they continue digging, but hopefully it's more sabertooth cats so they can expand their exhibit!

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