It’s been a big week in Texas. On Sunday, the San Antonio Missions achieved World Heritage Site status. Today, after years of study and anticipation, the Waco Mammoth Site – one of the most significant Ice Age fossil beds in the world – has officially been designated as part of the National Park System. President Barack Obama made the announcement today and welcomed the new Waco Mammoth National Monument.
A public ceremony, with officials from the National Park Service, City of Waco and Baylor University, is slated for the Waco Mammoth National Monument on July 25.
Mammoth Discovery: Archeological park in Waco documents area’s prehistoric creatures
Baylor University has been investigating the site since 1978 after hearing about bones emerging from eroding creek banks. This led to uncovering portions of five mammoths on what is more than 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River.
Since then, 23 Columbian mammoths – the nationals first and only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Pleistocene mammoths – have been found. It’s also the largest known concentration of mammoths dying from the same event. Also found were a camel and the tooth from a saber tooth tiger.
The site remained closed to the public until the end of 2009, but I recall being escorted across an unmarked field to the secured, tented site to see the ongoing excavation. It was a rare and beautiful discovery still coming to light after many, many years. And what stories it tells! There was something profound about seeing a mamma mammoth’s remains found with the remains of her baby in the careful clutch of her tusks. Their last moments frozen in time.
The discoveries have received international attention and research continues.
To witness, even a small moment of the discovery process was magical. It’s exciting to know that the secretly tented site has been transformed into a state-of-the-art site dig shelter that is now accessible to the general public. And now it becomes the Waco Mammoth National Monument.
It’s new National Park System status is expected to increase visitation by 23 percent in the first year, and 8 to 17 percent each year going forward.
The National Park Service will manage the site in cooperation with Baylor University and the City of Waco.