A Guide To Visiting The Waco Mammoth National Monument

What? Waco has a Mammoth site? Um, yeah…I was just as surprised to see these extinct creatures from the Ice Age in the grand ol’ WACO TEXAS y’all! But this is the only place in the entire United States where a full nursery herd of mammoths have been discovered. It’s actually pretty cool! Here’s everything you should know about visiting the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco. 

welcome center

What’s A Mammoth? (And Why Should I Visit Them?)

No, they’re not just “giant elephants.” And they’re not the same thing as the fur-covered Wooly Mammoths you see in the Ice Age movies.

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The mammoths at the Waco Mammoth National Monument are Columbian Mammoths, and they used to roam all over Texas thousands of years ago. They were much taller - up to 14 feet and 20,000 pounds, and they roamed through central America and Canada. 

Waco Mammoth National Monument-06

The craziest thing to me is that this is the only recorded nursery herd (meaning: an entire group of females) in the entire country. And it’s right here in Waco! 

How Were The Mammoths Found?

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In the 1970s, two men were looking for arrowheads and fossils and instead they found…a very interesting looking bone. 

They brought it to the science department at nearby Waco University, and professionals identified it as a femur bone from a Columbian Mammoth, an extinct species that lived in North America during the Ice Age.  

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A team started digging, and, well, they’ve been digging every since! The site has changed quite a bit since the 1970s as they do everything they can to protect the history and learn as much about it as they can. And it’s now a National Park, which means you and I can visit.

What’s At The Waco Mammoth National Monument?

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This is a really cool thing to do in Waco because you get to actually go to the dig shelter where the nursery herd of Columbian mammoths was discovered. 

Yep! They eventually built a climate-controlled building around the bones. You can walk in and observe the dig site from an elevated space. 

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A Complete Guide To Visiting The Waco Mammoth National Monument

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When you first arrive, you’ll have to kind of drive through a bunch of winding roads to get back to the welcome center. This is a big park! 

There’s plenty of parking, but keep in mind that it’s a popular destination for school field trips during the weekdays. So you might want to try to visit on a weekend or later in the afternoon if you’re trying to avoid the giant school buses filled with elementary students. 

welcome center

Once you park, you’ll get your tickets. Prices are very reasonable and include a guided tour, but you do have to purchase a ticket if you want to enter the dig shelter building.

Adults: $6

Seniors, Military, Youth: $5

3 & Under: FREE

Groups of 20+: $4/each

Once you purchase your ticket, you will have to walk bit to get to the dig shelter. So keep that in mind if you have trouble walking about ¼ mile or so. 

walking path

There’s a big designated picnic area. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Waco with kids, you could pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it after seeing the Mammoths! 

picnic area

And then you’ll see the big dig shelter looming in front of you.

dig shelter

It’s climate controlled, and I’ll be honest: the air conditioning in there feels AWESOME on a hot Waco summer day. 

Once you’re in the shelter, you can scan the QR code on your ticket to do a self-guided tour. It tells you where to stand to see certain fossils, and you read through a pretty lengthy document explaining everything. 


However, I highly recommend the guided tour! It’s offered for free and presented by National Park staff who are super into these Columbian Mammoths. They know pretty much everything there is to know about them, so it’s fun to be able to ask all your questions, get fun facts, and leave with an in-depth knowledge of this beautiful species of extinct animals. 


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