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PHOTOS: Ice Age Fossils State Park, Nevada’s newest, nears completion

Jannelle Calderon
Jannelle Calderon

Ice Age Fossils State Park in North Las Vegas is nearly complete, and the finish line is closer than ever thanks to a $3.5 million donation to the state from the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust. 

The project hit a couple of roadblocks that delayed it, from budget issues to the pandemic, Nevada State Parks Administrator Bob Mergell said during a sneak peek at the visitors center Wednesday.

Mergell said the original plan was for park employees to have an office to escape triple-digit temperatures but as more research was done he “realized that wasn’t going to be good enough” and they would need a place for the public as well, which would also act as a learning space.

“We leveraged some other funding, got everything with all the parts that we needed to kind of put together and started planning this facility that you see today,” Mergell said.

The project started in the '60s when paleontologists found fossils in the area from mammoths, camelops and saber-toothed cats. In 2017, then-Gov. Brian Sandoval established the 315-acre park as part of the Explore Your Nevada initiative.

The park is not open to the public yet, although that’s expected by the end of this year. When it opens, the visitors center will offer hikers information about the site, its history and a re-creation of how it looked at one point in time — which was wet, cool and marshy. 

“It's really hard to imagine that when you look at Vegas today and you see the modern city,” Fehner said. “But relatively not that long ago, there was a very different picture of what life was like here in Southern Nevada. So we're trying to bring that picture to life.”

The park will have three interconnected trails with shade structures, picnic areas and life-size sculptures of the massive animals that once roamed the area. 

“We don't often get new state park units in this state. It's monumental,” said Garrett Fehner, the park supervisor for Ice Age Fossils. “To think that there are fossils from animals like mammoths and camelops and dire wolves, right on the fringes of Vegas. And there's going to be a place where these are protected.” 


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