National Fossil Day   Explore Nature
National Park Service
US Department of the Interior

Mammoth Partner Highlight

The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County's (California) latest exhibit is a 14-foot tall replica of a Columbian mammoth. click enlarge...

The Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County (California) first opened its doors on October 13, 2010, the inaugural National Fossil Day! Now open for just over a year, we have been a popular destination for thousands of visitors, including over 2,000 grade school students. The Fossil Discovery Center sits directly across the road from the Fairmead Landfill, which is the 40 acre site of one of the largest Middle Pleistocene fossil deposits in California. The fossils are from 550,000 to 700,000 years old. The first discovery was in 1993, when heavy equipment unearthed a Columbian mammoth tusk 32 feet below the surface. Since that time, several thousand fossils from 67 different taxa have been identified including the Columbian mammoth, camel, horse, saber-tooth cat, scimitar cat, dire wolf and giant ground sloth, as well as reptiles, amphibians, fish, and 16 different diatoms.

Our latest exhibit is a 14-foot tall replica of a Columbian mammoth. It represents the species that lived in the San Joaquin Valley during the last Ice Age. Columbian mammoth remains are found throughout the San Joaquin Valley and make up 5.8% of the fossil assemblage at the Fairmead Landfill. Fossils from this location include tusks, molars, cranial and post cranial remains from individuals of varying ages from juvenile to adult. Horse fossils make up 63.9%, camel 20.5%, and giant ground sloth 6.7%. Pollen analysis indicates abundant grass, cattail, sedge, willow, and oak from the valley, as well as pine, spruce, juniper, and sagebrush that possibly washed down from higher elevations. As inferred from the dominant pollen species and the vast number of large herding and grazing species, the valley was likely a grassland environment, though probably more moist than today.

This particular area of the San Joaquin Valley is composed of distal alluvial fan deposits of the Chowchilla River. Fossils are buried in stream sediments including sand, silt, and clay from overbank and sheet flooding during glacial periods, as well as some marsh/lacustrine environments. Many of the bones show breakage from trampling, as well as predation. Columbian mammoths could have stood 14 feet in height and weighed as much as 20,000 pounds. Much of this breakage could be from them.

The Fossil Discovery Center is dedicated to the scientific study and educational presentation of these fossils to everyone. We have many interesting displays with the most popular activity for children being the Mock Dig area where we have 19 different replica fossils buried in sand. After a brief demonstration, they can spend time excavating any number of fossils. The new Columbian mammoth exhibit is the centerpiece of the Fossil Discovery Center and occupies the entire front area of the center. Come by and visit! Our address is 19450 Avenue 21 1/2, Chowchilla, CA. 93610. Phone (559) 665-7107. Please visit our website at

Mammoth partner feature articles:

Big Bone Lick State Park | Channel Islands NP, Pygmy Mammoth | Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose | Denver Museum of Nature & Science Snowmastodon Project | Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County | Kenosha Public Museums | The Mammoth Site at Hot Springs | Paleontological Research Institution, Museum of the Earth | The Tate Geological Museum at Casper College | Tule Springs Ice Age Park | Waco Mammoth Site

Last updated: February 17, 2012