Ok just a warning folks, my inner geek will be busting loose on this post. Yes, yes, I know, most people think of me as a suave and debonair man about town.
But in truth, I am a bit of a nerd.
Which is why I was VERY excited to go to the Waco Mammoth National Monument!
Now most of us have some concpetof a what a mammoth is. Think a big hairy elephant. Plus TV and Movies have helped. There is the cartoon Ice Age
And Game of Thrones
But these are the Woolly Mammoths. The ones in Waco are different. But lets not get ahead of ourselves…
So, in yesterday’s post, you saw we had gone to Waco to visit the silos made famous by Chip and Joanna Gaines Fixer Upper on HGTV. After perusing the store it was time to head just out of town for my part of the road trip.
A bit of history. In 1978, two locals were walking along a dry stream bed, looking for arrow heads. What they found was a huge bone sticking out. It was the femur of a Columbian Mammoth.
Note 1 The Columbian Mammoth is bigger and it is assumed had less hair than the Woolly. ‘Assumed’ because unlike the woolly, that lived in colder climes and have been found frozen intact with the hair, all we have for the Colombians are bones. But since they lived in warmer areas (Texas was in the 80s during the ice age) the assumption is less hair.
Note 2 The name Columbian was given to this species when it was discovered in 1857 by Scottish naturalist Hugh Falconer,. It was found in the Georgia, and to this guy, nothing said America more the Christopher Columbus….
Baylor university scientist excavated the site and have found the remains of over 26 mammoths, plus other animals. Some of the fossils are now at the university. But, what makes this place so cool, is that they have left some in the ground, partially excavated. They built a climate controlled building around it! We got to go see it!
This was initially a City owned site, but in 2015 Barack Obama made it a National Monument! Well done!
Siri took us right to the site. That poor computer girl was working her electronic ass off this trip. As we pulled up, we saw two tour buses and ton of kids. Probably on a field trip.
UGH!!! I liked going places like this as a kid for field trips, but I REALLY wasn’t excited to be surrounded by them when I wanted to see science stuff. BUT the science gods were smiling that day! They had just gotten done with the tour. They were hanging out waiting for a delivery of pizzas for lunch! YES!! They were soon gone and we had the waiting area essentially to ourselves
Note 3: Please Notice Michelle is in shorts while Abby has multiple layers, a scarf and head band. It was a toasty 60!
The only way to see the excavation site is to pay for the tour. This makes sense when you see it, as I could see how easily it could get vandalized without someone there to watch it.
As I was getting my tickets I learned something about one of the workers. This is as close to a direct quote as I can remember. “I love Taco Bell!! It touches my soul! Even though it tears up my stomach, I love it so!!” I guess love is hard sometimes!
As we waited for the tour to start (they leave on the Half hour) I was walking around checking stuff out. I kept hearing a bird singing when suddenly I spotted him.
OK, I had NO idea what the red bird was, we don’t have them in Seattle. So I asked Ranger John…. Evidently I am truly the only person in the world who didn’t know what a cardinal looked like. As soon as Michelle said “Think baseball??” I thought, “Oh, yeah…. ”
As we walked town the trail, I took a photo of the only green plant I that I swear I saw the whole weekend. A Live Oak tree. I love how big and gnarly they get.
Right after seeing this, a real life road runner ran by! No not him!
One that looked like this (I didn’t have my camera ready to catch him!)
We were lucky, the ranger said they are spotted maybe one out of 10 times. Musta been because we had a smaller quieter group. I was bummed not to get a photo, but very happy to have spotted him. For the record, I KNEW what he was!
Ranger John told us that the mammoth herd that was found here lived about 67000 years ago. One theory is that they were looking for food and got trapped in wet clay. Then a flash flood buried them. As I mentioned above they so far have found 26 mammoths, mostly females and young, but there was big male. They also found a prehistoric camel.
Note 4 Evidently, mammoths, like elephants today, have poor eyesight, camels on the other hand have excellent vision. It could be the camel hung close to the big ladies for protection from predators, while the camel served as an early warning for the herd.
When you walk in the building you first see this.
When you look closer you can see more details. Here is the big male
How big, well about 14 feet tall, check out this almost full size artist’s rendering
And back bones
Not to mention two pretty cute, non fossilized, chicks!
As you can see, there is much more dirt here to dig
I would LOVE to be there digging!!! I wonder if they need volunteers?
The tour lasted about half an hour, but I could have stayed much longer looking around, and imagining what it looked like when the mammoths roamed.
When you think about it, 67,000 years at first seems an impossible amount of time ago. But, when compared to the age of the earth, it’s an eye blink ago. We here in Seattle were reminded, 4 years ago this month, that mammoths roamed our city only 16,000 years ago. A new building going up discovered the largest Columbian tusk ever found in Seattle . I hope the kids that were in the previous tour understand that now where cows graze, or buildings stand, mammoth herds once walked. It’s just one small reason why science is cool!
Note 5 I just learned that the mammoth tusks are our state fossil!!
When we got back up to the visitor center, we were greeted with another tour bus of kids! The science gods blessed us with a window! We had less than 10 people, no crowds and a very informative trip.
OH! And as I mentioned yesterday, another reason I was excited to go was the chance to add to my National Parks Passport stamps. Mission Accomplished!