In 1993 at the Fairmead Landfill in Madera County, there was a large discovery of fossils from the Pleistocene Epoch. They have since created the Fossil Discovery Center to celebrate these amazing finds, and we went to explore it today with more of our cousins! We were really impressed with what they had to explore, but that being said, there isn’t a ton for really little ones to do. There is a lot of looking and not much to get their hands on. I think this outing is perfect for elementary aged kids, and with a lot of supervision our almost four year olds really got into a lot of it.
Pack: Nothing other than the essentials. Sunscreen & picnic if you plan to stay for lunch.
Parking: free parking lot
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (10am – 4pm), Sunday (11am – 4pm)
Cost: $9 adults, $7 seniors, 3 and under are free, $4 per person for mock dig (I recommend doing this, especially if you take little ones. It’s really the only hands-on part of the experience.)
K and B were very excited to get this adventure started! They spent a little time introducing themselves to the short-faced bear and saber-tooth cat sculptures in front of the museum.Usually when you first arrive they take you to watch an eight minute film that explains how the center was started and a little history of the fossils and the region, but today there was a meeting being held in the room so we skipped that, and just started exploring. (If you go, don’t skip it. It gives good context and explanation for everything you are seeing… especially if you are like me and aren’t big on reading displays).The first thing the kids wanted to look at was a display of skeletons, fossils, and other artifacts that they are actually allowed to touch. This section is REALLY COOL, but not great for little ones. The almost 4-year-olds did fine here, but my toddler didn’t understand how fragile everything was and wanted to put it in her pockets to collect. There are lots of displays that explain what paleontologists do and show many of their discoveries in the local area.*Possibly our future female paleontologist… she does love to play in the dirt!One of our favorite parts was the area that features full size replicas of the animals that have been found in this region. These animals are from the Pleistocene epoch (700,000 years ago). So crazy and cool!!
At the center of the museum is a replica skeleton of the Columbian Mammoth. It is impressive and HUGE to say the very least!After we explored inside for a bit, the kids were ready for some hands-on outdoor fun! So, we paid the additional $4 per kid to do the mock dig… Worth it!The guide began with a really thorough and kid-friendly explanation of how to dig like a paleontologist and how to figure out what fossil they have found. She showed the jaw bones of a carnivore and an herbivore and showed how they had different kinds of teeth which the kids really got into.The kids had a really good time digging for the pretend fossils but they needed a little help revealing the entire fossil and also with the clean-up. After we put the dig site back as it was, as best we could, we continued exploring the other outdoor exhibits.One thing the kids enjoyed was exploring an accurate recreation of a Yokut Indian house (local Native American tribe). Finally we took a little stroll around the “Pleistocene Pond” that is landscaped with only native plants… the Central Valley before people arrived!We ended our outing with a packed lunch at the picnic tables. It’s a nice area to eat and relax before exploring a bit more or heading home!And hopefully someday soon this historic Mammoth Orange stand will be back in business so you can learn about the Columbian Mammoth while enjoying a Mammoth Orange treat! (The Discovery Center purchased this blast from the past and plans to restore it and have it up and cooking soon!)