Courtesy of the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD Inc. The Mammoth Site allows budding paleontologists to experience an actual fossil dig.

Family Vacations in South Dakota: Mammoth Site

This treasure trove of fossils in Hot Springs, South Dakota, was discovered in 1974 when excavation for a housing development unearthed the remains of a woolly mammoth. Since then, budding paleontologists and their parents have visited the site to get hands-on experience in an actual dig.

To date, the fossilized skeletons of 53 mammoths have been identified, along with the remains of a giant short-faced bear, a camel, a llama, a prairie dog, a wolf, fish, and numerous invertebrates. Walkways throughout the excavation afford visitors close-up views of the skulls, ribs, tusks, femurs, and even nearly complete skeletons visible in the mass grave that resulted when these prehistoric animals fell into a sinkhole. Visitors can also see the Ice Age Exhibit Hall, which showcases some of the skeletons alongside a painting or replica of the animal as it would have looked, and they can view a working paleontology laboratory.

A simulated excavation for junior paleontologists is held daily during the summer months. Children learn excavation techniques including how to identify the fossils of different animals. They dig up replicas that are buried in a special area next to the actual sinkhole.

From the roar of prehistoric monsters, to the monster roar of modern machinery -- plan your trip for the right time of the year and you can attend Sturgis, one of the nation's loudest and best motorcycle rallies.

Mammoth Site Information

Address: West Highway 18 Bypass, Hot springs, SD

Telephone: 605/745-6017

Admission: $7.50 adults; $5.50 kids

Hours of Operation:

  • May - Aug. - 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
  • Aug. - Sept. - 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Sept. - Oct. - 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Nov. - Feb. - 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Mon. - Sat., and 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. on Sun.
  • Mar. - May - 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • South Dakota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in South Dakota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.