They weren’t gaudy, tourist attraction signs but a quiet calling to us. Come visit the Mammoth Site, they said.
Driving north through Hot Springs, South Dakota, we passed three of the signs before deciding to take a quick look at the guidebook to see what exactly it was. We were traveling old school since cell service was a bit sketchy. The guidebook description was brief but enticing enough to encourage us to stop.
We parked and walked past some large rock exhibits outside. Inside the building, we learned that taking the tour was going to run our family $32 (two adult tickets at $9 and two children’s tickets at $7) to get a peek at what exactly the Mammoth Site was. It was the first day of our trip, so we decided to go for it. When we purchased our tickets, we were given a tour time and told to wander around the shop or visit the small children’s room until it was time to go.
Mammoth Site Tour
When our time was called, we lined up with the rest of the group and entered through the doors. Our guide gave us a little history of the Mammoth Site. She informed us that we were standing where a spring fed pond used to be. The mammoths thought that this pond would be perfect for them until they fell in and realized that they couldn’t get out. The mammoths didn’t all fall in at once but just a few at a time.
After telling us the story of how the mammoths arrived, we walked around the corner and did not see what we were expecting to see.
This was no museum with mammoth parts pieced together.
This is a working archaeological dig and we were fascinated. The tour took about 30 minutes and we learned that the first mammoth was discovered by someone who had started excavating for a housing development. Equipment exposed the fossils and so began the Mammoth Site.
Still Uncovering Bones
People have been working to excavate bones for years and they will continue for many years to come. It almost looks fake but we got to see a couple of scientists in action excavating some of the bones. So far, 59 Columbian and woolly mammoths have been discovered and there are more to be found. Fossils of the Giant short-faced bear, camel, llama, fish and more have also been found.
After the tour, you are welcome to continue to explore yourself. The Mammoth Site offers educational programs through the year like the Paleontology Programs (offered through the summer) where children can learn proper excavation techniques.
A Nice Stop to Stretch Our Legs
The tour was short enough to keep my 6- and 8-year-old children entertained but not so long that they were bored. The information was not over their heads and they found it very interesting. As you go along the tour, the guide speaks into a one way telephone system. You listen through a phone piece as the guide tells you what you are seeing. If you have time, take the tour because there is a lot of information about the site that you won’t get otherwise. The Mammoth Site would work as a great pit stop on your way to Rapid City.
When our visit was over, we were let out in the gift shop (fancy that!) where both of my children picked out a woolly mammoth to add to their stuffed animal collections.