Fossil Park to Open Minutes from Las Vegas Strip

Posted on: January 16, 2024, 07:43h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2024, 11:40h.

Before whales, cheetahs, and sharks roamed Las Vegas, it was party central for Columbian mammoths, saber-tooth cats, and prehistoric camels.

“I forget, Arthur, is the Rainforest Café at the MGM or Planet Hollywood?” (Image:

That was 25,000 years ago, back in the late Ice Age. And, starting this weekend, the fossils of these long-extinct megafauna can be found in one Las Vegas attraction you don’t have to pass 2,000 slot machines to enter.

Ice Age Fossils State Park is located just 20 miles north of the Strip in a portion of North Las Vegas that was once part of the Upper Las Vegas Wash.

Yes, Las Vegas was once a mucky wetland, not a desert. And after some of its former inhabitants died, mud and plant matter accumulated around their carcasses, forming stone casts that later filled with minerals from groundwater and/or sediment, and — voila! — fossils.

Monumental Mammoth, a life-sized sculpture that debuted at the Burning Man festival in 2019, greets visitors to Ice Age Fossils State Park. (Image: Nevada Independent)

The park’s paleontology lab and fossil repository aren’t ready yet — sorry, Ross Geller from “Friends” — but visitors can tour three trails. The most fossil-festooned is the Big Dig, a 1.2-mile loop named after a 1962-63 interdisciplinary scientific expedition conducted here that was the largest of its kind to that point.

The trails offer views of the fossilized remains of all the area’s Ice Age mammals, including American lions, dire wolves, and ground sloths the size of VW Beetles. (Note: Views are all that are offered. Taking, or even touching, the fossils violates state and federal laws.)

At the visitor’s center, guests can study fossils and artifacts on display, catch a video, and sign up for educational programs.

The 315-acre protected area adjacent to Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument was acquired by the Nevada Division of State Parks in 1958.

In 2017, it was designated as a state park by former Nev. Gov Brian Sandoval, and its development was completed last year, thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Ice Age Fossils State Park, located at 8660 N. Decatur Blvd., will open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only, beginning January 20.

Admission is $3 for adults and free for children 12 and under. For more information, visit