The Waco Mammoth National Monument is a world-renowned paleontological site that features the fossils of 24 Columbian mammoths (Mammuthus columbi), as well as other mammals from the Pleistocene Epoch. Situated in Waco, Texas, the site is known to have the largest concentration of fossils from a single herd of mammoth, which are thought to have died together during a flash flood thousands of years ago. The site includes fossils from bull and female mammoths, and a camel that dates back at least 67,000 years. Managed by the Waco Mammoth Foundation, the Waco Mammoth National Monument became part of the National Park System after a Presidential Proclamation was issued by President Barack Obama in 2015.
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Columbian mammoths are known to have lived as far back as a million years ago. These large herbivores migrated south to North America and settled in what is now the central Texas area due to temperate landscapes of grasslands, savannahs, and plenty of water. The fossils found at the site are from a herd of Columbian mammoths that are thought to have lived approximately 68,000 years ago and died due to being trapped in a deep channel during a flash flood. The bodies of the mammoths were then subsequently covered by mud from further flash floods over the next few decades, which turned to stone, preserving the fossils. Among the fossils found at the site are one bull mammoth, an adult female mammoth, two juvenile mammoths, a camel, and a young saber-toothed cat. The ages of the fossils were determined by luminescence dating using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) whereby light and photons are used to ascertain the age of the soil around the bones, which in turn correlates to the time when the mammoths perished.
The site was discovered by Eddie Bufkin and Paul Barron in 1978 while they were searching for fossils and arrowheads near the Bosque River. After finding a large bone, which was identified by the Strecker Museum as being a Columbian mammoth, a formal dig was organized at the site, and the fossils from 16 mammoths were found between 1978 and 1990. The site where the original fossils were found was closed to the public until 2009 when a protective shelter for the location and bones was built and then opened for the public to enjoy. Today, the Waco Mammoth National Monument is surrounded by 100 acres of beautiful natural parklands along the Bosque River.
The Waco Mammoth National Monument offers a variety of educational programs and experiences for all ages and groups. All educational activities are aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills program (TEKS), and several add-on programs are offered to enhance educational experiences. Add-on programs include Fossil Fun, where participants can sift through fossil-rich gravel to find treasures; and the Big Dig Class, where visitors learn how to excavate replica Ice Age fossils led by experts. Other programs include Mobile Digs where students ‘excavate’ artifacts, bones, and geologic specimens using appropriate scientific tools and techniques, and Mighty Molars where learners study a variety of animal teeth to identify specialized diets of Ice Age animals.
The Waco Mammoth National Monument is situated at 6220 Steinbeck Bend Road in Waco, Texas and is open to the public Monday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm year-round. The Monument has a Welcome Center where visitors can begin their visit to the park and offers guided hour-long tours every 30 minutes. Tours are led by knowledgeable docents and volunteers and visit the Dig Shelter, where the mammoth fossils are still in their original position, as well as explore the Ice Age, how the fossils were found and the importance of the site. Nearby attractions to visit after enjoying the Waco Mammoth National Monument include Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex, Cameron Park, and Lake Waco.
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6220 Steinbeck Bend Dr, Waco, TX 76708, website, Phone: 254-750-7946