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“See and Learn about Paleontology and Mammoths”

Mammoth Site of Hot Springs
Ranked #1 of 11 things to do in Hot Springs
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: America's International Treasure. This National Natural Landmark is an internationally renowned indoor working paleontological site/museum. More than 62 Columbian & woolly mammoths have been unearthed, as well as over 85 other species of associated Ice Age fauna. Hands-on activities for children, an educational experience for the entire family. One of the top fossil interpretive sites in North America. Open year-round. Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. New Learning Center opened May 2015, two new 53-seat theaters, universally accessible walkways, new HD Introductory video, New Digital TourGuide system.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Wheelchair access, Activities for older children, Stairs / lift, Bathroom facilities
Reviewed February 23, 2017

In 1974 at the southwestern edge of Hot Springs, South Dakota, mammoth bones were surprisingly uncovered while bulldozing a site for construction. Excavation began immediately, and a protective building was soon erected when it became apparent that this was a massive and spectacular deposit of fossil bones, not only from mammoths, but from other fauna dating back 26,000 years. Today, as bones are uncovered, many are left in-situ for visitors to view where the animals actually died.

Mammoths are extinct elephants of North America and Eurasia which lived from about 5 million years ago up to as recently as 4000 years ago. Columbian Mammoths, the predominant species found at this South Dakota site, were as large, or larger, than African elephants of today. The other elephant species found were Woolly Mammoths, which were smaller but better adapted to the colder weather of the ice ages.

About 26,000 years ago, the roof of a limestone cave collapsed creating a sinkhole which filled with warm water (about 95° F) from an artesian spring. This natural ‘hot tub’ became a death trap for heavy mammoths (which weighed up to 10 tons) and other animals such as camels and large, prehistoric bears which slipped into the watery pit but were unable to escape. The bones of over 60 mammoths have been found so far.

Tragically, some skeletons show mammoths stretching toward the top of the sinkhole, futilely trying to escape the slippery and muddy embankments. They perished from starvation in their fatal, stretched pose. Other skeletons are found at the bottom suggesting that mammoths drowned while swimming to the other side of the sinkhole, but became exhausted while swimming and searching over and over again for escape.

Today, this site is still being actively excavated, and before removal, bones are encased in plaster ‘jackets’ (seen as white coverings) to protect them during transport to the on-site lab. As you walk through the exhibit, there are buckets and tools everywhere to support the on-going excavation. During summer months, volunteers are trained in excavation techniques and then assigned parts of the sinkhole to excavate.

This is a fascinating and eye-opening adventure for learning about extinct animals - particularly mammoths which were major characters in the animated and popular Ice Age movies; i.e. Manny (aka Manfred) and Ellie. This museum is great for kids to learn real science behind the make-believe characters. Plus, you see and learn about how paleontologists excavate fossil bones - their equipment and their methods. The Mammoth Site is a goldmine for learning, whether young or old. Highly recommended - especially for families.

1  Thank ColoradoJAK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
mammothtoo, Public Relations Manager at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, responded to this reviewResponded February 27, 2017

Greetings ColoradoJAK,
Thank you for taking the time to write such a descriptive review of The Mammoth Site. We appreciate your feedback that you have provided about your experience and "highly recommending" The Mammoth Site to others. We are glad you enjoyed your visit and we hope that you will be able to visit us again in the future.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (1,456)
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"dig site"
in 156 reviews
"guided tour"
in 132 reviews
"sink hole"
in 52 reviews
"active dig"
in 28 reviews
"ice age"
in 30 reviews
"all ages"
in 75 reviews
"ask questions"
in 22 reviews
"exhibit hall"
in 16 reviews
"gift shop"
in 77 reviews
"short video"
in 21 reviews
"amazing site"
in 15 reviews
"interesting place"
in 21 reviews
"kids and adults"
in 17 reviews
"own pace"
in 14 reviews
"black hills"
in 60 reviews
"walk around"
in 20 reviews
"whole family"
in 24 reviews
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381 - 385 of 1,456 reviews

Reviewed February 19, 2017

This is a small little place barely off the main drag of Hot Springs. It's pretty cool that there are tons of mammoth skeletons well excavated so that you can see their outlines. The guided tour could be worth it, I don't know because I didn't have time to do it. But even just walking around and doing the self guided tour was sufficient for me because once you see the bones, read some stuff in the exhibit, that's really all you need.

Thank sdurkin24
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
mammothtoo, Public Relations Manager at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, responded to this reviewResponded February 20, 2017

Greetings sdurkin24,

We are sorry to hear that you didn't have enough time to take the guided tour but we are glad to hear that you found the self-guided to be "sufficient". We appreciate you taking the time to provide feedback about your experience at The Mammoth Site. We hope that you will be able to come back and visit us again someday!

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Reviewed February 13, 2017 via mobile

The gift shop had really low and reasonable prices then what we are used to in other gift shops! Although the woman at the cash register was grumpy and unpleasant! I believe her name was Mary! What they call the bone bed was quite enjoyable! If you have teenagers, this is the place to take them! My kids learned so much in the short time we had! There are guided tours and tours you can take on your own! We took the on your own tour but wish we would've taken the guided tour as the booklet we were given was wordy and lengthy! We will be coming back!

Thank Flyer695208
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
mammothtoo, Public Relations Manager at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, responded to this reviewResponded February 14, 2017

Greetings,

Thank you for taking the time to review The Mammoth Site. We appreciate hearing feedback from our visitors. We take our reviews very seriously and use them as training tools for our staff. We apologize for your unpleasant encounter with one of our staff members and this situation will be addressed with them. The Mammoth Site strives to provide the best experience for our visitors. We are glad to hear that you enjoyed the rest of the museum. We look forward to you coming back to see us again and when you return please ask for the Public Relations Coordinator. Also if you would like to discuss this matter further please feel free to contact the Public Relations Coordinator at 605-745-6017. Thank you and we hope to see you again soon!

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Reviewed February 4, 2017

This was such a find! My 7 & 9 year old boys had a great time on the fossil dig and they are still talking about the spear throwing class! I was amazed by the quality of fossils and the information I learned at this site. It was amazing. Definitely an excellent addition to the Rushmore trip.

Thank K M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
mammothtoo, Public Relations Manager at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, responded to this reviewResponded February 7, 2017

Greetings KM,

Thank you for your review of The Mammoth Site. We appreciate hearing the feedback from our visitors. We are glad to hear that your children enjoyed the Atlatl Class and that your family was also "amazed by the information at the Site". We hope you and your family will visit us again in the future and maybe your children will be able to try the Junior Paleontologist Dig Program!

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Reviewed January 29, 2017

This is an out of the way, but unique and well worth while excursion for any amateur paleontologist, child or lover of natural history. Since the site has been preserved within the museum, while still being actively excavated, you not only get to experience the extraordinary prehistoric finds but also get to feel part of the action.

Thank ericl446
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
mammothtoo, Public Relations Manager at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, responded to this reviewResponded January 30, 2017

Dear Eric L,

Thank you for taking the time to review The Mammoth Site and share your personal experience during your visit. We are glad that you found The Mammoth Site to be "well worth" it. We appreciate the feedback from our visitors and we hope you will visit us again in the future.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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