WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – In this installment of Destination Central Texas, we are taking a trip back in time!
Visitors to the Mammoth National Monument can take in some rare sights. Over 65,000 years ago – yes, you heard that right – this area was dominated by Colombian mammoths and other ice age mammals. After their extinction, their fossils remained – turning this area into a national monument of preservation.
“With this beautiful building, we are able to preserve these fossils,” says Lead Park Ranger Brycen H. Turnbull. “And slowly over time, as we do some more digging in here, and hopefully uncover some more fossils, they will be able to stay in so our visitors can see it.”
The Dig Shelter houses mammoth, camel and sabertooth cat fossils laying in the same place they were found. The building has humidity control, temperature control and sunlight control to keep the fossils around for as long as possible.
“The real cool things we have here is our paleontologist, Dr. Lindsey Yan. She is only one of three PhD. paleontologists in the entire national park service, and she conducts the science with the fossils,” says Turnbull.
The remains of Bull Mammoth “Q” are astonishing for those who see it – they are in a “natural death” pose.
According to Turnbull, his fossils are almost complete – which is rare. To get an idea of his size, one 14-foot mural mirrors his dimensions.
“In this particular instance, Mammoth Q was almost totally complete, which means that he was covered up before scavengers had the opportunity to pick apart his remains,” says Turnbull.
Speaking of remains, this building is locked at all times – even when open to the public – because of the significance of the fossils.
The Dig Shelter is not the only exhibit. There are also trails, ranger talks and educational options for schools and larger groups.
“You hear about Texas finding mammoth teeth in their lands. Here, you can come and see these full fossil remains. You can learn about what the animals were, what they were doing, and why they are here. So you can learn about Texas history just from a different era,” says Turnbull.
The monument is open all year round, with roughly 1,000 visitors coming through the park.