Mammoth bones and tusks line the pit.
Up for an encounter with an extinct Ice Age pachyderm? The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, S.D., might be for you. Paleontologists date the cache of fossilized woolly and Columbian (not as woolly) mammoths to 26,000 years ago, when the hefty tusked animals sought vegetation growing in a spring-fed sinkhole and couldn't scramble out.
The skeletons of three adult mammoths are visible at the active dig (56 individuals have been identified), as are camels, wolves, coyotes, and giant short-faced bears. "You're actually seeing what we're seeing as we excavate it," says site paleontologist Larry Agenbroad. "I've had visitors leave weeping. When they see these animals laid out like that, they imagine them trumpeting in fear, trying to get out."
Visitors stroll sidewalks above the pit, peer into a working paleontology lab, measure their height and size against a 14-foot-tall, 10-ton Columbian mammoth, and tour the Ice Age Exhibit Hall. (605) 745-6017, www.mammothsite.com.
Photography by Breck P. Kent
This article was first published in March 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.