Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Waco Mammoth National Monument

(Clicking on the pictures will open them larger in a new window.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The day started with a 40 minute drive over to Waco, Texas to attend Palm Sunday Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church.

We had overcast skies but the scenery on the way was
still wonderful. We passed by several cornfields this morning.

According to the plaque. pictured below, this building was
built in 1942. It was the 4th building built on a 3rd site.

The parish was established in 1869
and is the oldest Parish in Waco.
The first sanctuary was erected in 1870.

The stained glass windows are beautiful. There are several
more. The ones pictured on the top right are over the
choir loft in the back of the church. 

I had to include at least one wildflower. Not sure what these
are but they were so tiny and a bright yellow.

After mass we ended up at the Spice Village were we had lunch at Ninfa's, a Mexican Restaurant. There were several other choices of places to eat in this area but watching the crowd this seemed to be the place to go. We found out the crowd was headed towards Ninfa's because the food was good and the service, we found to be, impeccable.

Our next stop was the Waco Mammoth National Monument. By now the sun was peeking through the clouds and the temperature and humidity had risen. (One of the nice things about visiting this park  is  that no matter what the weather is like  you spend most of your time inside a climate controlled building. Plus, if you have any walking issues, we where told the walk was 300 yards, they bring you to the building in a golf cart and there are also several places to sit along the way. We noticed umbrellas outside the visitor center that they offer, for the walk, if it is raining.) The National Park pass does not apply to guided tours. (Note: Access to the in situ fossil bed is by guided tour only at this time.) We paid $4.00 each with our senior discount. The cost is usually $5 for adults. Military, educators, students including college students are charged $4 and for children 4 to 12 the cost is $3. Under 4 children are free. The amount charged is well worth the cost and tours start every 30 minutes.

The information include below was taken either from the government site about the monument or the brochure provided. 
The Waco Mammoth National Monument is a paleontological site and museum in Waco, Texas, United States where fossils of twenty-four Columbian mammoths and other mammals from the Pleistocene Epoch have been uncovered. The site is the largest known concentration of a single herd of mammoths dying from the same event, which is believed to have been a flash flood. A local partnership developed around the site after the initial bone was discovered. The Waco Mammoth Foundation worked in partnership with the city of Waco and Baylor University to develop the site. In 2015, they successfully sought the National Monument designation to bring the expertise of the National Park Service into the partnership.

In 2015, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential
Proclamation making the Waco Mammoth Site a new unit of
the National Park System.

Waco Mammoth National Monument sits within 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River. Surrounded by oak, mesquite and cedar trees, the site offers an escape from the modern world and provides a glimpse into the lives and habitat of Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age animals.

This was our first stop on the tour.
It is a covered area where our guide
gave us some information about the
Columbian Mammoth including the
fact that it would have stood as tall as
the tape on the lamp post.
(The yellow arrow points to the
spot in the picture.)

On a spring day in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin embarked on a search for arrowheads and fossils near the Bosque River. To their surprise, the men stumbled upon a large bone eroding out of a ravine. Recognizing the unusual nature of the find, they removed the bone and took it to Baylor University's Strecker Museum (predecessor to the Mayborn Museum Complex) for examination. Museum staff identified the find as a femur bone from a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). This now extinct species lived during the Pleistocene Epoch (more commonly known as the Ice Age) and inhabited North America from southern Canada to as far south as Costa Rica.

Bottom right picture is where original bone was found.

Plaster Jacket

The Columbian mammoth was one of the largest mammals to have lived during the Pleistocene Epoch. Other Ice Age animals that lived during this time included giant ground sloths, (Our guide mentioned the sloths standing on their hind legs would have been around 20 feet tall and that would be the top of the lamp post pictured above.) short-faced bears, sabertooth cats, and giant beavers.

The Columbian mammoth is a distant relative of the woolly mammoth, but woolly mammoths lived farther north in much colder regions.

Columbian mammoths grew to more than 14 feet in height at the shoulder and weighed up to 10 tons (20,000 pounds). They stood two to four feet taller and weighed up to 8,000 pounds more than the woolly mammoths.

Columbian mammoths share many similar characteristics with our modern day elephants of Asia and Africa. Some of these features include having 4 teeth in their mouths at a given time, one above and below on each side of the skull and jaw. Mammoths had six sets of teeth during their lifetimes, which could span up to 75 years. The mammoth's tusk are modified incisor teeth and grew as long as 16 feet, weighing up to 200 pounds each. And Columbian mammoths walked on their tiptoes, an internal sponge-like pad behind the bones of their feet cushioned their immense weight.

Mammoths probably spent up to 20 hours a day eating between 300 to 700 pounds of grass and other plants. As a result mammoths produced around 400 pounds of dung daily.

Our informative and entertaining
tour guide, Jim.

This is a replica of the male mammoth on the floor below.
Pictured below.

Strecker Museum staff quickly organized a team of volunteers and excavation began at the site. Using hand tools such as brushes and bamboo scrapers, crews slowly excavated a lost world. Between 1978 and 1990, the fossil remains of 16 Columbian mammoths were discovered. Their efforts uncovered a nursery herd that appears to have died together in a single natural event. Between 1990 and 1997, six additional mammoths were excavated, including a large male (bull). Crews also uncovered the remains of a Western camel (Camelops hesternus), dwarf antelope, American alligator, giant tortoise, and the tooth of a juvenile saber-toothed cat (Smilodon sp.), which was found next to an unidentified animal. (A replica of the tooth is in the 2nd picture below.)

Since the discovery of the site in 1978, museum staff, students and volunteers have spent thousands of hours excavating and working to preserve the fossil material. While the remains excavated through 1990 are now housed at Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex, most of the fossil specimens excavated since then remain in situ (still in their original position within the bone bed). These specimens have been protected in recent years by a climate-controlled Dig Shelter, allowing for both public viewing and further scientific study. (Our tour guide mentioned at first the site was only covered with a tent.)

When explaining about this female mammoth the tour guide
pointed out the missing tusk, just to right of the identification
sign, which was taken to the museum for further study. He
also mentioned the reason they stopped excavating the second
one was because when touched it was falling apart. He 

told us many of the bones are a chalk like consistency.

This is a replica.

Scientists from Baylor University and many other institutions have conducted research on such topics as the age of the fossils, what plants the animals ate, and the circumstances under which they were trapped and buried. How the mammoths died is still a mystery. No evidence of human involvement has been found, and many of the remains were not disturbed by scavengers. One of the first hypotheses was that the animals all perished in a flash flood. However, recent research has indicated that between 65,000 and 72,000 years ago, a nursery herd of at least 19 mammoths were trapped and drowned by rapidly rising flood waters from the Bosque River. A camel also appears to have been trapped by this flood. Subsequent floods buried the remains. Some years later, an unidentified animal associated with a juvenile saber-toothed cat died and was buried. And, finally, another flood event occurred which trapped and killed the bull, juvenile and female mammoths. 

On our way back we drove over the Whitney Lake Dam one more time.

The Waco Mammoth National Monument is a unique place to visit. To be able to see bones from animals that lived over 10,000 years ago in the actual location they were found and not on a shelf, through glass, in a museum is a exciting experience and well worth the time.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

- Confucius 

Thank you for reading through today's history lesson.
If you have a moment, please leave a comment, we would love hearing from you.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful tour some amazing history there. The Dr Pepper museum in Waco is interesting too.

    1. You are welcome, it was amazing to see. We will have to look into the Dr. Pepper Museum a place to keep on the list for next time.

  2. Looks like a wonderful museum, thank you walking us through it. Knew you had to include a pix of wildflowers. :) Love them.

    1. You are welcome, it is great they have preserved it and opened it to the public. I have to find a book so I can identify what kind of wildflowers I am looking at...:)

  3. This would have been amazing! I am indeed jealous.