Secretary Jewell, Former First Lady Laura Bush Join Texas Community to Celebrate Waco Mammoth National Monument Designation

President’s Proclamation protects rare Mammoth fossils, first and only recorded discovery of a nursery herd

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: October 5, 2015
Contacts: Jessica Kershaw (Interior),
April Slayton (National Park Service),

WACO, TEXAS – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Former First Lady Laura Bush today joined community members to celebrate the President’s designation of the Waco Mammoth National Monument as one of the nation’s newest national monuments, permanently protecting the site where the extremely well-preserved fossils of a herd of Columbian Mammoths and other Ice Age animals have been found. President Obama designated the area as a national monument on July 10, 2015, as part of the Administration’s commitment to protect our country’s significant natural, historical and cultural treasures for the benefit of future generations.

The celebration took place at the new national monument, where Secretary Jewell and former First Lady Laura Bush were joined by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, City of Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan, Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr, and many local, state and national conservation and community leaders.

“Today we celebrate decades of hard work and partnerships between the City of Waco, Baylor University, the Waco Mammoth Foundation and now the National Park Service,” said Secretary Jewell. “It’s our duty to protect places like this that will inspire the next generation of archaeologists, paleontologists, and historians, and show the rich diversity of our country’s natural heritage.”

The area in Texas provides a rare chance to understand and interpret the behavior and ecology of the extinct Columbian Mammoth. The oldest fossils identified at the site are thought to be more than 65,000 years old. In addition, both the excavation area and the land around it offer an excellent opportunity for further exploration and paleontological and geological research. In a nod to the recently launched Every Kid in a Park initiative, which aims to get fourth graders nationwide to visit public lands, today, a group of fourth grade students were onsite to participate in an interactive learning activity. 

“America will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016. Michelle Obama and I serve as the Honorary Co-Chairs of the Centennial Campaign, and our centennial campaign theme is Find Your Park,” said Mrs. Laura Bush. “Today, as we designate the newest national park unit, it seems like the perfect moment to invite you to join me and Find Your Park. Everyone in Waco can find your own park right here at home at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.”

The site remains the nation's first and only recorded discovery of a nursery herd, including females and their offspring, of mammoths from the Ice Age, an era defined as 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. Of the 24 mammoths uncovered to date, at least 18 were part of the nursery herd. As a result of an unknown natural catastrophic event, the entire nursery herd died at the same moment in time, which left the skeletons relatively intact. The site offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to examine the matriarchal herd structure and behavior of this extinct species.

The site is now managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the City of Waco and Baylor University. The National Park Service is conducting a management planning process, working closely with partners, community members, and other groups that have devoted themselves to preserving the site for many years.

“The National Park Service has worked seamlessly with our partners at the City of Waco, Baylor University, and the Waco Mammoth Foundation to lay the groundwork for the continued success of the Waco Mammoth National Monument,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are proud to celebrate this special place, and thank the people of Waco for welcoming the National Park Service so warmly.”

The site was discovered in 1978, when Waco residents Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin were looking for arrowheads and fossils along the Bosque River and found a large bone protruding from the earth. Realizing the possible significance of this discovery, Mr. Barron and Mr. Bufkin immediately took the bone to the Strecker Museum at Baylor University where it was identified as the upper leg bone of a Columbian Mammoth. 

Over the next 20 years, Baylor University oversaw the excavation of the site, where they found the remains of 24 Columbian Mammoths, including adults and juveniles, as well as a western camel, saber-toothed cat, dwarf antelope, American alligator, and giant tortoise. The Columbian Mammoths are the largest mammoth species – larger than its relative, the Woolly mammoth – and stood 12 to 14 feet tall and weighed seven to eight tons. Many of the discovered bones, including the remains of four Columbian Mammoths, as well as the skeleton of the camel, remain in place, providing visitors an opportunity to view them.

The City of Waco has operated the Waco Mammoth Site as a park since 2009, in partnership with Baylor University and with support from the nonprofit Waco Mammoth Foundation, Inc. The city donated to the United States approximately five acres, which includes the excavation site and the dig shelter, making it possible to establish the monument. Nearly the entire Waco Mammoth Site is within the boundary of the national monument.

The Antiquities Act was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients.

The Waco Mammoth National Monument is one of three new national monuments announced by President Obama in July that help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans. The new monuments also include Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, and Basin and Range in Nevada.

With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 19 national monuments. In total, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.

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