The Waco Mammoth National Monument is one of three national monuments in Texas. Located in Waco, this dig site tells the story of tragic loss, but unveils some fascinating facts about this particular region of the Lone Star State. Learn more about what you can expect in this post.
History of the find
Imagine walking around a creek bed looking for fossils and finding a life-changing artifact!
In 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin were doing just that only to discover something odd sticking out from the ground. Knowing it seemed unusual, they dug it out, took it to Baylor University’s science department and learned that it was a femur bone from a Columbian mammoth.
You figure if this was found there must be the rest of the body somewhere close, so excavations quickly began for the site, and scientists uncovered a nursery herd that seemed to have all died together.
This discovery is the first and only nursery herd discovered in North America.
From local dig site to National Monument
Excavations through the late 1990s found some remarkable species besides the mammoths that included a camel, alligator, giant tortoise, and according to the NPS site, tooth of a juvenile saber-toothed cat.
Originally the site was covered by a tent, but thankfully, funding from additional sources helped create a safer, climate-controlled environment, and in 2015 President Barack Obama signed an executive order that established this as Waco Mammoth National Monument.
What to expect at Waco Mammoth National Monument
Right off the bat, this place isn’t very big.
This is a great stop on a road trip or a perfect place to visit alongside nearby Mother Neff State Park.
The visitor center features souvenirs for the monument but also has a great selection of rocks and minerals that sparkle in the sun.
A tv plays videos from the different programming dedicated to this site, so it’s a great way to kill some time while you’re waiting on someone to use the restrooms which are located here.
Once you’re paid up you’ll make your way down the sidewalk to the excavation site, but along the way, you’ll pass a few different trails that give a real sense of what this area may have been like when mammoths roamed the earth.
Inside the excavation site
Once you walk in you’ll see fantastic murals on the walls, but immediately notice the ground below.
You walk on two catwalks that give you a great perspective of the fossils below, so take some time and view each of the marked fossil groupings, and read the interpretive signs on the railing.
It’s a fascinating story that spans thousands of years.
Check out the official pamphlet for this location and learn a little more about the science behind what you’ll see.
The monument is open daily from 9am-5pm except for Thanksgiving, December 25th, and January 1st. You cannot use your national park pass here, but admission is around $5.