Over President's Day weekend we took a little family trip to the Black Hills, mostly to waterpark our brains out. But my daughter wanted to go to the Mammoth Site. I'm glad she did.

I heard about the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs as a kid. I had driven by it a bunch of times driving between Rapid City and Denver on Highway 18. But I didn't know any of the backstory or what exactly it was. I thought it was just a site where they found a prehistoric mammoth that fell in a tar pit or something. I was completely ignorant of how fascinating it is.

I'm not going to give you the whole history of it but I will give you a very short version. In 1974 a real estate developer bought a parcel of land in Hot Springs to build houses. A giant mound was in this parcel and they went to bulldoze it only to find fossils of a half dozen mammoths all over the place. Once it was determined what it was, the developer sold it as cost to the current foundation that operates the site.

Andy Erickson/Hot 104.7
Andy Erickson/Hot 104.7

To date, there have been bones from 61 mammoths found at the Mammoth Site. Most of them Columbian mammoths, the largest species. A handful of wooly mammoths have also been found at the site. The reason for the concentration of fossils here is because the mound was actually a deep warm pond that mammoths would fall into when they tried to feed on surrounding vegetation. The pond was actually a sinkhole that was too steep for them to climb out of and they eventually drowned.

If you are in the Black Hills, you need to set aside half a day to go to the Mammoth Site. It is so worth the hour drive from Rapid City. I lived in the Hills for years and never stopped in; It's a great attraction.

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