President Barack Obama designated the Waco Mammoth Site as a national monument Friday, calling it “one of the most incredible collections of mammoth fossils anywhere in the country.”
The Waco Mammoth National Monument will protect and promote a site featuring the well-preserved remains of 24 Columbian mammoths and the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of mammoths that were apparently trapped in a steep-sided channel and drowned when the Bosque River flooded about 65,000 years ago.
It was one of three new national monuments created Friday by the president. The other two are Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, a landscape containing rare biodiversity, and Basin and Range in Nevada, an iconic American landscape that features 4,000-year-old rock art.
With the three new designations, the White House said Obama has used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 19 national monuments, protecting more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters — more than any other president.
The Waco Mammoth Site, surrounded by oak, mesquite and cedar trees on more than 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River, will be managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the city of Waco and Baylor University.
It features remains of Columbian mammoths, a dominant species in North America during the Pleistocene Epoch and the largest of all mammoth species.
The excavation site also is home to remains from other animals of that epoch, including the Western camel, saber-toothed cat, dwarf antelope, American alligator and giant tortoise. The White House said area businesses, nonprofits, government and schools had demonstrated strong support for protecting the site.
According to the city of Waco website, “On a spring day in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin embarked on a search for arrowheads and fossils near the Bosque River. To their surprise, the men stumbled upon a large bone eroding out of a ravine. Recognizing the unusual nature of the find, they removed the bone and took it to the Strecker Museum at Baylor University for examination.”
The bone was identified as that of a Columbian mammoth, and staffers from the Strecker Museum organized a team of volunteers. “Using hand tools such as brushes and bamboo scrapers, crews slowly excavated a lost world. Between 1978 and 1990, the fossil remains of 16 Columbian mammoths were discovered,” the Waco website says.
Baylor staffers, students and volunteers have excavated the site for more than 30 years. With the support of the Waco Mammoth Foundation, the site was opened to the public in 2009.
“Waco Mammoth is a window to a world lost long ago, and with this designation, visitors from across the country will be able to continue learning about the science and history of these amazing creatures,” said Suzanne Dixon of the National Parks Conservation Association.
Former first lady Laura Bush called the designation a special day for Texas.
“President Bush and I are thrilled that the Waco Mammoth Site is America’s newest national monument,” she said. “The Waco Mammoth Site takes visitors back in time nearly 65,000 years and reminds us of our country’s connection to the history of our planet.”