Mammoth Change

Post card showing physical location of a wayside at the monument with "Wish you were here" written in read across it.
A peaceful field hiding a wealth of history!


A topographic map showing the boundaries of the monument in the upper left corner and Pikes Peak on the right side with the now melted glaciers indicated with blue blobs on the peak.
Extent of alpine glaciers once present on Pikes Peak based upon the glacial landforms left behind. (1:100,000 30 x 60 Minute Quadrangle of Pikes Peak, 1983)

NPS/GIP: Mariah Slovacek

A constructed image of what the monument might have looked like in the Pleistocene with a mammoth and other ice age animals on a snowy field.
A photomanipulation of the Florissant valley in winter showing what it might have looked like in the Pleistocene.

NPS/GIP: Mariah Slovacek

Mammoths in Florissant?

The warm greenhouse world of the Eocene abruptly transitioned to an icehouse world at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, as permanent ice began to develop on a previously ice-free Antarctica. In less than a million years, the giant redwoods and many hardwoods of the Florissant Formation became uncommon in the landscape. Rather, cold-hardy spruces, firs, and pines came to dominate the Oligocene Antero formation of South Park, 30 miles to the west of here. Global temperatures continued to cool into the Pleistocene Ice Age. Glaciers developed on Pikes Peak, though not in the Florissant valley. However, it was still cold enough that animals like Columbian mammoth once lived here.
Fossilized fragments of mammoth jaw and tooth found at the monument on black background.
Fossilized mammoth jaw and tooth fragment.


These mammoth tooth and jaw fragments were discovered in 1994. The very subtle ridges on the top of the tooth are evidence that mammoths were grazers, feeding on grasses, sedges, and herbs. Columbian mammoths grew as tall as 13 feet (4 m) at the shoulders and likely weighed up to 10 tons.

How Old Was this Mammoth?

Radiocarbon dating is a way scientists can determine the age of more recent fossils. Using carbon, the building block of organic tissues, scientists can determine an approximent age of fossils as long as they are not more than 50 thousand years old. This is because, over time, the parent element, carbon-14 decays into the daughter element, nitrogen-14. This happens at a predictable rate, with half of the original carbon-14 into nitrogen-14 every 5,700 years. However, by about 50 thousand years, the amount of carbon is so small that it is at unmeasureable levels and thus nothing older can be dated this way.

The Florissant mammoth was dated this way and has been estimated to be around 49,930 years old!

A schematic diagram illustrating the decay of carbon visualized as successive pie diagrams showing each half life step.
Illustration showing carbon half-life progression over time. The top half shows carbon atoms (on the left) decaying to nitrogen atoms (on the right). The bottom timescale shows 100% carbon-14 successively reducing by half at each interval.

NPS/GIP: Mariah Slovacek

Photo of grassy valley with wayside panel in front.

Stop 11: Top of a Forest, Bottom of Lake

Click her to go to Stop 11.

Map of the physical locations of the waysides.

Virtual Tour Homepage

Explanation of the virtual tour and links to all stops.

Photo of bile of boulders and a wayside panel at front.

Stop 13: Root's of Pikes Peak

Click here to go to Stop 13.

Last updated: December 8, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 185
Florissant, CO 80816


719 748-3253

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