(Victor Valley)- – Spectacular Ice Age fossils entombed in ancient wetlands outside of Las Vegas are rewriting our understanding of prehistoric climate change in the American west. In sight of the famous Strip, new cutting-edge studies are combining geology, paleontology, and climate studies to make Las Vegas a linchpin in Ice Age investigations throughout southwestern North America. Kathleen Springer, Senior Curator of Geological Sciences at the San Bernardino County Museum, will give a presentation, “Fossils Beneath the Casinos,” at the Victor Valley Museum on Sunday, April 22 at 2:00 p.m. She will elaborate on exciting new discoveries from the Tule Springs area of the upper Las Vegas Wash. Her illustrated lecture is free with paid museum admission.
Geologists and paleontologists from the County Museum continue to actively explore the renowned Tule Springs area of the upper Las Vegas Wash as they have for over the past decade. Funded through a research grant from the Las Vegas field office of the Bureau Land Management, County Museum scientists have recovered thousands of fossils dating to the Pleistocene Epoch—the “Ice Ages”—from ancient spring deposits standing literally within eyesight of the famous Las Vegas Strip. The fossil collection, which includes remains of long-extinct mammoths, camels, horses, and bison, is the most complete and extensive of any ever recovered from the region. Yet the fossils, impressive though they are, comprise only part of the overall story.
“We’re all about the context,” said Springer, a geologist as well as a paleontologist. “In order to truly understand the Ice Ages, you need to go beyond the animals to look at their whole environment. The sediments alone speak volumes if you know how to really read the rocks. We’re exploring Tule Springs with a comprehensiveness and detail that nobody has attempted here in decades.”
Tule Springs and the upper Las Vegas Wash have long been known to contain fossils, based on studies conducted in the 1930s, 1950s, and 1960s. Those early investigations, noted Springer, sought to link the Ice Age behemoths with early humans. “When no cavorting of people and megafauna could be demonstrated, interest in the area waned,” she said. “But our interest was in the animals themselves, as well as in their geologic and climatic context. Our current efforts reveal that the changes in ancient climates can be tracked through tens of thousands of years in the Las Vegas Valley. We’re combining the geology and the paleontology here in a whole new way.”
The Victor Valley Museum is at 11873 Apple Valley Road in Apple Valley. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 (adult), $4 (senior or military), and $2.50 (student). Children under 5 and San Bernardino County Museum Association members are free. Parking is free. For more information, visit www.sbcountymuseum.org.
The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services’ telephone number is 909-307-2669 ext. 229 or (TDD) 909-792-1462.