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 about 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 at 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 deep warm pond that mammoths would fall into when they tried feed on surrounding vegetation. The pond was actually a sink hole 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 that has as much substance or more than any.