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Family-Friendly Attractions: Mammoth Dig Site


On our recent family road trip, we got to visit the Mammoth Dig Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.  Our family loves to see dinosaur fossils, but this was our first time looking at ancient mammals.  The site is home to the largest collection of Colombian Mammoths in the world!  And Colombian Mammoths are the biggest land mammals to ever live on earth!  It's so amazing to stand under their shadow and imagine living during their time.



As the name implies, the museum is an active dig site, which attracts paleontologists from all over the world.  There are even options for kids to dig!  Our entire family enjoyed play "I-Spy" to pick out the mammoth fossils.  The pictures don't do it justice at all.  You can see entire bodies, lots of heads, and various body parts.



 The site used to be a hot springs sink hole, and many other animals besides mammoths are enclosed within the mud.  The list includes Woolly Mammoths, Giant Short Faced Bears, American Camel, llamas, prairie dogs, wolves, and even clams, slugs, and snails.

The young docents at the museum were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the dig site, the fossils, and the animals that used to live in the area.  You can learn more about mammoths, too, by checking out these cool books, toys, and resources.










After you exit the active dig site, you go into a small museum area with a Colombian Mammoth figure, standing at full height with hair and tusks.  He's huge!  Much larger than an African elephant.  It's super imposing- I can't imagine trying to hunt such a large animal.

There is a section where the museum shows several of the ways that mammoths might have been hunted by showing how bison were hunted in the recent past.  For the rest of the trip, the kids pointed out good places to run bison and mammoths off cliffs.



The hut pictured above is a recreation of similar dwellings that they've uncovered in Siberia.  The walls are made from mammoth bones and covered in skins.  The kids enjoyed exploring the home and talking about what life may have been like inside of it.  They thought it was small, but warm, and a little creepy to be surrounded by bones.

If your family is at all interested in the Ice Age, you have to make this part of your vacation plans.  It is less than an hour from Rapid City and could easily be part of your Mt Rushmore area tour (scroll down for more Rapid City ideas).  Let me know in the comments what you love about the Rapid City area.


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