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Front Page » July 3, 2007 » Local News » Mammoth memories
Published 2,618 days ago

Mammoth memories


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By PATSY STODDARD
Editor

Jana Abrams, Scenic Byways Coordinator and Bill Broadbear from the US Forest Service cut the ribbon to officially open the new kiosk located at Huntington Reservoir, the site of the mammoth discovery.

A beast who roamed Huntington Canyon 11,000 years ago is still a cause for excitement and interest these many years later. The mammoth was discovered at the Huntington Reservoir in Huntington Canyon on 8-8-88 by Nielson Construction backhoe operator, Chris Nielson.

At first they thought they had dug up an old tree or something, but closer examination revealed the ancient creature. Authorities were notified and an official removal process began.

Visitors again gathered at the site of the mammoth discovery on Friday to dedicate the new kiosk and information center recently constructed at the site. The event brought back many memories of the discovery. The Huntington/Eccles Scenic Byway is a diverse route with magnificent scenery which happens to go past the mammoth discovery site. Jana Abrams is the Energy Loop Byways Coordinator and instrumental in garnering the funds for this mammoth project. She said, "This kiosk is a new visitor attraction. We want visitors to stay a little longer in our communities. We have such a diverse community here along the Energy Loop and Huntington and Eccles Canyons. This byway ties everything together, mining, farming, travel and recreation. This kiosk was made possible with a grant from the Federal Highway division. Bill Broadbear from the US Forest Service worked on the trail down to the kiosk and the slope is ADA accessible. We have had a great partnership with the forest service."

The new kiosk is nestled down among the trees with a gravel pathway leading down.

Abrams pointed out the long process of information gathering and photo gathering of the actual mammoth find to go on the information panels. She appreciates artist Joe Venus for the painted mural which depicts how the area may have looked when the mammoth roamed the country; this painted mural is on one of the panels.

Abrams thanked Dawnette Tuttle from Orangeville for the use of her pictures and the newspaper clippings from the time of the discovery. A second part of the kiosk project has been the installation of low wattage radio antennas which will broadcast information about the area. Information will include: camping info, weather conditions, special activities, etc. This station will be AM 1610.

The mammoth cast as it stands in the CEU museum in Price.

Abrams introduced the speakers for the program-ribbon cutting ceremony which included: Martha Hayden, Utah Geologic Survey; Don Burge, retired curator for the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum; Bill Broadbear, Manti-LaSal National Forest Service; Carlos Machado, Federal Highways Administration Utah Division; and Gael Hill, State Scenic Byway coordinator.

Hayden was called to the site of the discovery on Aug. 8, 1988. She worked with Dave Madsen and Dave Gillette in the mammoth removal process. The bones were wrapped in burlap to prevent them from drying out. The bone unearthed by Nielson was a tusk or humerus bone. It was lying on the ground. She said there was great cooperation with Nielson Construction, the forest service and the volunteers at the site. At least 5,000 people visited the site during the time of excavation. She described the find as one of the greatest ice age fossil finds ever as the mammoth was 95 percent complete in its location. A short faced bear was also located at the site. The site had been a bog which was created by a glacier slide and became the mammoth's resting spot. He was deposited at the end of the ice age and was a very old male, 60-65 years old, at the end of his life. Fur needles were preserved inside his stomach. Which is a poor diet for a mammoth of this size and the mammoth was found to have arthritis.

Burge spoke next saying next August will mark the 20 year anniversary of the mammoth discovery. He said, "The discovery has changed the course of the CEU museum. There have been more than 30 casts made of this mammoth. The South Dakota Mammoth site even has one of our mammoths. There are two in Japan, one in a Los Angeles museum and one in Canada."

One of the interpretive panels explaining the mammoth discovery.

Burge said some of the bones were kept in kiddie pools around the museum to keep them from drying out. There were arguments at first of who owned the mammoth. Who did he belong to? The CEU museum became accredited so it could serve as a repository for the mammoth bones. Burge said the so called experts originally identified the beast as a mastodon and he was glad to point out to them the real identity of the creature. A mammoth has teeth similar to elephant teeth and mastodon teeth are more like human molars. A mammoth cast is at the CEU museum and the original mammoth skeleton is there and available for public viewing. It is stored in a conservation lab where the relative humidity is kept at 30 percent and the room temperature 68 degrees. Burge said that's hard to do here where the air is so dry. "We did more things right than wrong and the bones are still in good condition," said Burge.

Broadbear said one day during the discovery period a reporter from the New York Times showed up and wanted to do a story about the mammoth. Interest in the mammoth discovery went worldwide. Broadbear said he is impressed with the kiosk and the informative panels to tell the story of the discovery so visitors to the site come away with an appreciation of the site and the mammoth.

Machado said he works with the scenic byways to help them with grants to do projects. He enjoys these partnerships and the work they do to be good stewards of the natural resources. He believes the scenic byways are the heart and soul of America. He described scenic byways as an extensive collection of special places. He is working to bring additional funds to Utah for projects. "I have never been here before and am surprised with the scenic views." The Utah Division since 1992, has had $7.3 million procured for 84 projects.

Don Burge speaks about the mammoth discovery.

Hill rounded out the program with her description of the scenic byways program. "The byways connect our country. Utah has better byways than many states." She is proud of the mammoth project and the Scenic highway 89 project from Manti to Kanab.

Abrams encouraged tourists to visit the mammoth kiosks and enjoy the discovery of the mammoth.

Wayne Nielson from Nielson Construction said they were working on a new dam at the time of the discovery. The old dam had begun to leak and was being replaced. His cousin Chris Nielson was excavating when he brought up a bone, it was 50-60 feet down, kind of in a bowl area. The bog area acted as a refrigerator for the skeleton and the cool mud kept it preserved for approximately 11,000 years.

The mammoth and its story will continue to be an asset to the Castle Valley region as its notoriety extends worldwide.


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