Monday, April 19, 2010

The Other California: Mammoths and Sabertooths rise from the Prairies again!


Painting for the San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation by David Douglas

Sometime back, I talked about the rich paleontological discoveries being made at the Madera County Landfill at Fairmead near the center of California's Great Valley. I mentioned the efforts to build a visitor facility, the Fossil Discovery Center, but also mentioned that I had not had the opportunity to visit the site yet. That changed today, and I am happy to report that the facility is rapidly becoming a reality. It is expected to be open for business in June.
The Fossil Discovery Center is on the corner of Road 21 1/2 and Road 19 a short distance from Highway 99, near the town of Fairmead. As can be seen, the exterior of the building is essentially complete, and when I stopped by, workers were busy putting in the high-tech connections, and working on the interior labs and classroom. I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk to Grady Billington, the President of the Board of the Directors of the San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation. He kindly provided me a tour of the facility and discussed their plans for introducing valley residents to the fascinating prehistory of the region.
A full-sized mammoth skull has been hung in the central atrium. More than three dozen species of animals have been discovered at the landfill, including mammoths, mastodons, sloths, camels, horses, dire wolves, smilodon sabertooths, and short-faced bears. Skeletons of most of these animals will be part of the display when it is complete.

The original environment where the animals lived and died was a prairie with ponds and rivers flowing out of the adjacent Sierra Nevada. An outdoor pond has been constructed to recreate some of the conditions present when the Pleistocene animals were roaming the area. The hill in the background of the photo is the landfill site where the fossils were uncovered.

For more information, check out the website for the San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation, or look for almost daily updates on the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County site on Facebook.

For those who are new to Geotripper, the "Other California" is my long-running web series on the fascinating geological places in my fine state that don't usually show up on the postcards. Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Terry said...

Thanks for sharing the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County and the Fairmead fossils. Your webpage is well done and we appreciate your support. We will be celebrating together in June.