This afternoon we wound our way through the town of Hot Springs, roughly 35 miles south of Custer. This is a nice little town built in a narrow valley. The town is long and narrow, built between two mountain ridges and divided by Hat Creek.
Our goal was the Mammoth Site just outside town.
This sign explains how the bones came to be in this spot (sinkhole with water and plants--animals fell in but couldn't climb out) and the bones were found.
The site consists of one large building. Just inside the doors is a rotunda. To the left are theaters. To the right are the ticket counter and gift shop. Beyond the gift shop is a museum. Straight ahead are the doors that lead to the dig site.
Behind Duane (above) is the shaker area. As bones are excavated, all of the dirt is swept up and shaken through screens here to collect the tiniest bits of bone.
In the rotunda this wooly mammoth display got our attention. After we bought our tickets, we wandered around this area looking at displays and into the gift shop until our tour was called.
Then we entered the theater and watched a short film about how the bones were found and the site taken over and protected by a non-profit organization. After the film our tour guide handed out headphones and led us out the doors to the left to a large room encompassing 70% of the dig site. The area is indoors because these bones are not fossilized and would deteriorate rapidly outside.
Three mammoths, two elephants and Duane
Our guide led us to different viewing areas along a circular walkway around the pit. In each area he would point a laser at each point of interest. We were given every opportunity to ask questions. When the tour was done, we were allowed to wander around the room at will, taking photos and reading information. The views of the bones were close enough to see details with ease.
Teeth (more info below)
Skeleton including tail bone.
Plaster casts protect the bones that are ready to be taken to the lab below for further study. In the background are some of the other animals whose remains have been found in the pit.
One person was working on a spot. This is a nice dig site--air conditioned and well lighted! (The dirt she loosened will be taken out to the shaker area.)
Skull complete with tusks.
When we were done viewing bones, we exited into a museum.
How tusks are grown.
Info about teeth
Everybody needs to know about poop.
Giant short faced bear.
Cambrian (largest) mammoth. Note Duane in background for size reference.
Duane is standing in front of a mammoth bone house. I guess that if you didn't have stone or wood to make a house you would make one from giant bones.
Mammoth femur vs human femur, in case you didn't realize how big these animals were.
We enjoyed our visit to the Site, and we were impressed with the personnel. They were almost all high school kids who did a wonderful job.
We also enjoyed our ride through the Black Hills roller coaster of roads and beautiful scenery.
We never tire of seeing these wonderful beasts.
A bit of Black Hills humor
A bit more--this was in the museum display about poop!
This area of South Dakota is chock full of wonderful surprises. If you haven't had enough of them, come back tomorrow!
Louise and Duane