The Mammoth Site is one of the premiere tourist attractions in Hot Springs, bringing in some 100,000 visitors each year. These numbers have more than outgrown the facilities available for those who flock to Southwestern South Dakota from around the world to learn about the state’s ancient history.
Plans are underway to construct a 5000-square foot facility to provide more educational space for paleontology enthusiasts and, hopefully, more tourism income to the Hot Springs community.
More than 26,000 years ago, large Columbian and wooly mammoths were trapped and died in a spring-fed pond near what is now the southwest edge of Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Hot Springs’ Mammoth Site has been THE place to go to for information about the ancient animals for 40 years, says spokesperson Joe Muller.
“It’s the largest in situ collection of mammoth bones in the world and the world’s largest mammoth research center,” explains Muller. “We’re up to 61 mammoths…58 being Columbian and 3 being woolys. Eighty-five other species of animals, everything from giant short-faced bear to camel-lops...to llamas, etcetera.”
Muller notes that The Mammoth Site has become an integral part of the scientific community since the first mammoth bones were discovered in 1974 on a hilltop just south of town.
“We have visiting scientists from Russia, the Netherlands, Italy, England, etcetera that come in and do research,” Muller offers. “Joint research with Doctor Larry Agenbroad.”
Doctor Agenbroad is The Mammoth Site’s Principal Scientific Investigator.
With such continued growth in popularity, Muller says the time is long overdue to expand The Mammoth Site to satisfy its visitors’ needs.
“We have about an 18,000 square-foot visitor center over the actual sink hole sink hole, so we can leave the bones in place where they’re discovered,” Muller comments. “We have an 8300-square foot exhibit hall…slash…bone storage...laboratory…offices…classroom. And we have a 400 square-foot gathering area or gift shop area. And we’re planning on adding a 5300 square-foot learning center…theater complex…that will have a gathering area and two 62-seat theatres.”
The theaters alone are a huge improvement over the small 25-folding chair video viewing room currently in place, says Muller.
“This will be state of the art and we’ll be able to do high-def introductory videos and the people will be able to see the whole introductory video before they go on tour,” explains Muller. “Plus the big advantage will be Doctor Agenbroad and other scientists that may come through will be able to do presentations in the slower times of the year or in the evenings when we don’t need to run both theaters.”
Construction is slated to begin on The Mammoth Site Learning Center this Fall.
Muller adds it’s also hoped that having The Mammoth Site Learning Center and its various activities will encourage visitors to prolong their stay in Hot Springs and do more than tour the world renowned sink-hole.