Waco Mammoth Site — long run by Baylor — joins National Park System
It’s been almost 40 years since two Central Texas men stumbled across a large bone sticking out of a Waco creek bed and brought it to Baylor for identification. Friday, that event reached its culmination as the Waco Mammoth National Monument was welcomed into the National Park System (NPS).
[CNN: “Texas mammoth herd site is a new national monument“]
So why does this matter to Baylor?
For starters, it validates the work the university and the city of Waco have done at the site since its discovery in 1978 — excavating the site, studying and preserving what’s been found there, and turning the once-private dig site into an educational opportunity open to the public. “The National Parks team was very impressed that one university has overseen and done all the work out there, and was very impressed with how well it was cared for,” Mayborn Museum director Ellie Caston told Baylor Magazine when the site opened to the public in 2009. “I think our alums can be proud that the work done here was good science.”
The NPS designation also honors Baylor’s Mayborn Museum, which, for more than 30 years, has housed specimens found at the site for study and safekeeping. With the site joining the NPS, the Mayborn has been acknowledged as an official repository for the National Park Service — another nod toward the excellent work done by Baylor researchers over the years.
NPS experts further showed their trust for what the university and the City of Waco have done in allowing the current partnership to continue managing the site alongside the National Park Service. The success of the long partnership between Baylor and the city (further bolstered by tremendous community support) has impressed the NPS for years.
What makes the mammoth site special?
Over the last four decades, the site has revealed 24 mammoth skeletons (plus remains of a saber-toothed cat, a camel and other smaller animals) dating back more than 65,000 years. Researchers believe there may yet be more bones (both mammoth and others) still buried in the area. After 30 years of private work, the Waco Mammoth Site was opened to the public in 2009; the new facility now protects the exposed bones still in the ground from the elements and allows visitors to see the work from catwalks above the dig site.
[For more background, read “A Mammoth Undertaking” from the Winter 2009-10 issue of Baylor Magazine]
Even before the NPS designation, the Waco Mammoth Site was considered one of the top attractions in Waco (rated 4.5 stars out of 5 on TripAdvisor). The new honor means additional nationwide exposure for the site, plus access to new research opportunities and data. The federal government will also provide for a park ranger, new signs and research money. The city will continue to pay to maintain the park and retain the current staff.
If you haven’t been before, now you have one more big — nay, mammoth — reason to go.
Sic ’em, Waco Mammoth National Monument!