UPDATED MAY 2017
Does anyone in your family LOVE fossils? My preschooler was crazy about them, and I had read so many books about prehistoric animals with him, that I was hooked too. That's why we had to stop at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota during our Black Hills road trip.
The Mammoth Site was the last stop of our Black Hills vacation. If we had known that we were going to drive all the way home to Salt Lake City that day, we probably wouldn't have taken the time for this attraction. I'm glad we did.
The Mammoth Site is a pre-historic sinkhole where 61 mammoth skeletons have been excavated to date. The Mammoth site was discovered in 1974 when the land was being excavated for a housing development. Local citizens preserved the site, and a climate-controlled museum was erected over it.
Most of the fossils are Colombian Mammoths, though three Woolly Mammoths have also been found. Fossils from 85 other Ice Age species, as well as information on ancient rocks and plant life, have also been found.
If anyone in your family loves fossils, the Mammoth Site is a slam dunk. What impressed me most is how easy it is to identify the mammoth fossils. Skulls, tusks and bodies are obviously and abundantly embedded in the rock.
The 30-minute tour is included in your admission. The tour begins with a short movie about the site, then guests walk through the site with wireless headsets. The tour is intended for all ages. The tour has changed somewhat since our visit, but I'm guessing that it still moves quickly enough for families with young children.
After the tour, there are several areas in the museum where families can explore hands-on exhibits of fossils, and early human history.
If you plan ahead, the Mammoth Site offers Junior Paleontologist Excavation Programs for kids and teens for an additional fee. It looked fun, but registration for the next program was closed by the time we learned about it during our visit. Your kids will get dirty, and photography is encouraged.
The Mammoth Site is a great example of how delightful an unexpected discovery can be. Workers were surprised when they uncovered a huge cache of mammoth fossils in 1974. Our family was pleasantly surprised by the Mammoth Site too.
Featured photo credit: Mammoth Site
Good to Know
Where: 1800 Highway 18, Truck route. We found it easily, driving south from Rapid City.
When: The Mammoth Site is open year round, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter. Hours change seasonally. Check the official website for hours on the date you will be there.
How Much: Admission starts at around $8 per person, with pricing for children, adults and seniors. Children ages 3 and under get in FREE. Check the official website for current pricing.
How Long: About 2 hours
Amenities: Gift shop, restrooms
How else can I help?
Traveling by air? Rapid City Regional Airport is the nearest airport to the Black Hills. Denver International is the nearest major airport. We recommend SkyScanner or AirfareWatchdog to compare fares from major airlines. Then book directly from the airline, rather than a 3rd party site. Find out why HERE.
Need a rental car? Driving your own car is the best way to explore the Black Hills. Find the best rates from dozens of agencies at RentalCars.com.
Need a place to stay? Rapid City makes a good base for this trip. It’s the biggest city in the area, with a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, shopping and other vacation amenities. Wherever you stay, get a room with an in-room refrigerator so that you can store picnic supplies. We stayed at Howard Johnson Inn and Suites and would stay there again. Click the buttons below to read my review or check availability for this hotel on TripAdvisor.