My wife and I moved to Jefferson County, Missouri, in 1979 not once thinking that this was an area where the huge mastodons and giant sloths (the size of grizzly bears) of prehistoric times had once roamed freely.
However, owing to the wise decision making of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, who purchased the 418 acres in Imperial, Mo., that encompasses the “Kimmswick Bone Bed” where the fossils of these giant creatures were found and established a museum and historic site, we have discovered that these magnificent animals did in fact live in this area and very possibly walked around on the very ground where my zoysia grass now grows.
Located at 1050 Charles J. Becker Drive in Imperial, the historic site and museum is full of interesting displays. First a giant replica of a mastodon skeleton is what catches your eye as soon as you walk in the door. You must keep in mind that a full skeleton wasn’t found at the site but such pieces as tusks, jaws and hip bones and teeth were found and were enough for scientists to establish that they were indeed here.
A quarry operation in the area that ran up to the 1930’s had destroyed a lot of the ice age remains. Enclosed in glass cases are a tusk and hip bone and several jaw bones. Some actual teeth are in the open for visitors to touch.
Also in glass cases are spearheads that were made by the Native Americans that lived here during the time of the mastodon.
The mastodon wasn’t the only animal who left behind intriguing remains for scientists to discover. There is also evidence of the giant sloth, stag moose and peccary.
At the end of the ice age, estimated to be 35,000 to 10,000 years ago, this area was believed to be swampy and having a lot of mineral springs. It is thought the animals became trapped in the mud and thus, preserving their bones.
Early North Americans known as the “Clovis” people had also reached this area and their spearheads that were found also in the “Bone Bed” can also be seen in the museum. The fact that spearheads were found along with the bone fragments of the mastodon indicated that the Clovis people coexisted with these giant animals and killed them for food and for their hides.