WACO — Seventeen years ago, the first of five Ice Age series movies released. I was 8-years-old and thanks to that movie I will forever associate the ice age with mammoths.

In 2015, Waco Mammoth National Monument officially became part of the National Park System after an executive order was signed by former President Barack Obama.  

Science has documented a total of five major earth ice ages – the first one was more than 2 billion years ago and the most recent one ended only about 11,000 years ago.

During my younger brother’s stay, my fiancé and I took him to the Waco Mammoth National Monument.    

Although the site is only a one-room climate controlled dig shelter, the tour is a good 45 minutes long. Public viewings, internships, and continued scientific studies take place at the monument. The first discovery was made in 1978 and over the years 25 Columbian mammoths have been discovered.

Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin were searching for arrowheads and fossils by the Bosque River when they found a large bone. They took the bone to Baylor University for examination, where staff identified it as a femur from a Columbian mammoth. The Columbian mammoth lived during the Pleistocene Epoch (the ice age) period. The Columbian mammoth, an extinct species, lived in North America, as far north as northern United States and as far south as Costa Rica. The Waco Mammoth National Monument is a part of Baylor University’s Natural and Cultural History Exhibits.

A short walk from the monument’s gift shop will take you to the dig shelter. The gift shop is also where tickets can be purchased. Walking on the cemented pathway, signs that read, “Follow me to the mammoths” led us to our destination.

The tour was short, but informative. We were able to view adult male and female mammoth bones, along with bones from a juvenile mammoth up from a balcony view. The dig shelter was built on top of the excavation and many of the bones have been left in the original position in which they were discovered. Our guide said that research indicates that a flash flood trapped and killed a heard of Columbian mammoths along the Bosque River, which explains the location of the discoveries. Female Columbium mammoths usually traveled in herds, whereas male Columbium mammoths usually traveled alone. Once a male Columbium mammoth reached adolescence, they would leave the group to live on their own.  

Science has indicated two different theories for the extinction of mammoths; climate change and being hunted by humans.  

For more information about the Waco Mammoth National Monument, visit https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm.