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The Mammoth Site In Hot Springs, South Dakota

South Dakota: Hot Springs – Mammoth Site

During our stopover in South Dakota we had had several people recommend that we visit the Mammoth Site Museum in Hot Springs, so that is where we headed.

Hot Springs itself is an interesting town, with small boutique shops and restaurants. The Museum is as a result of an accidental find during a housing construction project. What they found was an ancient sinkhole into which a large number of mammoths had fallen to their deaths. Over the years sediment settled on to these poor creatures who were perfectly preserved. The dig site is uncommon as the mammoth bones that the excavation has exposed have been left in situ and can be viewed by visitors from raised walkways. It is a most unusual exhibit. The work is ongoing and you can still see the palaeontologists and their worker elves working on uncovering more amazing discoveries. So far they have found the remains of 115 mammoths – these are the original bones as the sediment has preserved them in an unmineralised state. At the end of the tour, we were allowed into the basement to the lab areas where you can see them working on the bones from the excavation. Via an intercom system, you can talk to the people working in the cleanroom where they are preparing the samples.

We got talking to one man, who is a volunteer, working in the labs along with his wife. They had moved to a smaller house five years ago in the area so that they could be part of this project as volunteers. They were so dedicated that the work was helping them live with the knowledge that the gentleman had terminal cancer … their driving force had become uncovering an ancient life form! They were so gracious and brave!

A model of a male mammoth at the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota
The diggings of the paleontologists

Planning your visit to Mammoth Site

Location:1800 US-18 BYP, Hot Springs, SD
Website:mammothsite.org/
Telephone:T: (605) 745-6017
Hours:March 1 – May 14 Open Daily 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
May 15 – August 15 Open Daily8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
August 16 – August 31 Open Daily 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
September 1 – October 31 Open Daily 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
November 1 – February 28 Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Sunday Only11:00 am – 3:30 p.m.
Fees:(Children 3 & Under) – Free
(Ages 4-12) – $9.00
(Active & Retired Military) – $9.00
(Ages 13-59) – $12.00
(Ages 60 & Over) – $10.00

Best time to visit the Mammoth Site

The memorial is located in the Blackhills of South Dakota. In the winter months, it can be very cold and snowy so you’ll need to wrap up warm. Conversely in the summer months, it can be hot and sticky. 

Other places close by worth visiting

CUSTER STATE PARK

Custer State Park is famous for its bison herds, other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centres, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds and interpretive programs. In fact, it was named as one of the World’s Top Ten Wildlife Destinations for the array of wildlife within the park’s borders and for the unbelievable access visitors have to them.

WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK

Regarded as sacred by American Indians, exploration of the the area known a Wind Cave did not begin until 1881, when the entrance was noticed by two brothers, Jesse and Tom Bingham. They heard a loud whistling noise, which led them to a small hole in the ground, the cave’s only natural opening.

Today, you can visit the caves and the beautiful plains on the surface above.

MOUNT RUSHMORE

Mount Rushmore is a relatively recent creation and started as a concept by state historian Doane Robinson in 1923. The choice of artist was Gutzon Borglum, a radical sculptor with a sense of scale and outlandish ambition.

CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL

Brule Lakota Henry Standing Bear was born near Pierre, South Dakota, along the Missouri River around 1874. In 1933 he heard that there were plans to build a monument to his cousin Crazy Horse at Fort Robinson where he had met his end. Standing Bear and the Lakota Sioux were determined that any such monument should be built in the Black Hill mountains of South Dakota which had a spiritual significance to his Nation.

The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, roughly 17 miles (27 km) from Mount Rushmore. When, and if, it gets finished it will dwarf Mount Rushmore.

SOUTH DAKOTA AIR & SPACE MUSEUM

I still get excited when I get the chance to visit a new museum dedicated to air and space, so when I discovered on our journey through South Dakota the South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Airforce Base I jumped at the chance to visit. Like many such aerospace museums, there was plenty of interesting aircraft on display. There are over 30 vintage military aircraft ranging from World War II bombers to the modern-day B-1.

MINUTEMAN MISSILE HISTORIC SITE

If you are looking for another opportunity to catch up on cold-war history and nuclear proliferation then check out the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

The Minuteman Missile field covered the far western portion of South Dakota from 1963 through the early 1990s. There were 15 Launch Control Facilities that commanded and controlled 150 Launch Facilities (Missile Silos) holding Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The missile field was operational, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for thirty years.

You can visit the new visitor centre and take tours of the sites themselves.

WALL DRUG STORE

As you travel around America, especially the mid-west you’ll come across billboards advertising the Wall Drug Store. These billboards are located, in some cases, hundreds of miles from the store itself mostly along a 650 mile stretch of I-90. Apparently, there are more than 300 paid for billboards, some located internationally, and a whole load more unofficial billboards.

The store itself has become a popular stop-off point for people travelling through South Dakota or visiting the local attractions such as Badlands National Park or en route to Mount Rushmore.

BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK

The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. In the early 1900s, French-Canadian fur trappers called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through.”

Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the United States.

Where to stay?

1. SUMMER CREEK INN & SPA

Located in Rapid City in the Black Hills region, 18 mi from Mount Rushmore National Monument, Summer Creek Inn & Spa features a spa centre and hot tub. The bed and breakfast has a sun terrace and views of a waterfall and a garden, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. Free private parking is available on site.

Certain rooms feature a seating area where you can relax. A terrace or balcony are featured in certain rooms. Superior rooms include a spa bath or a hot tub. 

2. SWEETGRASS INN BED & BREAKFAST

Located in Rapid City, Sweetgrass Inn Bed & Breakfast offers accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, a bar and a garden. This 3-star inn offers a shared kitchen, room service and free WiFi. The accommodations provides evening entertainment and an ATM.

Journey Museum is 8.1 mi from Sweetgrass Inn Bed & Breakfast, while Rushmore Mall is 9.9 mi from the property. The nearest airport is Rapid City Regional Airport, 11 mi from the inn.

3. UNDER CANVAS MOUNT RUSHMORE

If you are looking for something more adventurous than the typical hotel experience then you might want to consider Under Canvas Mount Rushmore.

Fancy a glamping experience in safari-style tents then this may be the place for you. Canvas Mount Rushmore is tucked within Ponderosa Pines and Common Juniper, located on an original gold mining settlement less than 4 miles from Mount Rushmore National Monument. Offering upscale accommodations and majestic views of Mount Rushmore and the surrounding Black Hills

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