Today we drove to Hot Springs, SD to visit the Mammoth Site, an indoor working paleontological dig site and museum. The Mammoth Site is the only late Ice Age facility of its kind in North America. The site was originally purchase by a land developer, who saw the potential for a new residential area. Unfortunately there was an unsightly hill on the property that needed to be leveled off before any other work could be done. In the process of bulldozing the area , the operator struck something that shone white in the sunlight. What he saw was a tusk, about seven feet long, sliced in half lengthwise, along with other bones. He contacted 4 colleges and 3 universities, none of which were interested in the project, nor did they desire to come and see what was discovered. Finally he took some of the bones to his son, who had taken classes in geology and archeology. The son took them to his former college professor, who came to look at the site. The professor’s colleague and 10 members of an Arizona dig crew then spent 10 days salvaging and stabilizing the bones, tusks, teeth and skull fragments. At this time the land owner halted his housing project, and, another year later he sold the property to the non profit organization which has run the project ever since.
The bones are located in a spring-fed sinkhole from the last Ice Age. To date they have located the bones from 58 Columbian and 3 Wooly mammoths as well as 87 other animal species which became trapped in the sinkhole. Our tour began with a video presentation, then was followed by a narrated tour of the dig site. Then we were free to wander around approved walkways to take pictures. What an amazing site (and sight!) to see so many recognizable bones in place that have not yet been excavated! They have estimated that the site is approximately 70 feet deep. To date they have partially excavated down approximately 22 feet. Just an amazing sight!
On our way back home Don took the scenic route. And boy did it prove to be scenic! We started on highway 16a, driving through Custer State Park, which was quite large in itself. It was a winding road through hills and past campgrounds and other park facilities. There were many side roads (to be seen at another time!) At the other end of the park we were on the Iron Mountain Road. Now we really had no idea where this would come out specifically, but figured it would get us near our campground. And what a road this was. It was a twisty road, also going up and down hills, but much more dynamic than the previous stretch through the park. At the first tunnel, as we stopped to take a picture, we could see the presidents at Mt. Rushmore. Priceless! Later we saw a sign that described our road. The Iron Mountain Road Experience consists of: 17 miles of road, 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails (where the road corkscrewed round and under itself), 3 tunnels, 4 presidents and 2 splits. Wow!
Back at home, we had happy hour with our neighbor, another Voltage owner. And I put on a pot of chili for dinner.
It was an awesome day!