LAS VEGAS -- While Las Vegas is celebrating the recent opening of the Neon Boneyard, scientists are celebrating the discovery of an actual boneyard near Decatur Boulevard and the 215 Beltway.
Scientists have made recent prehistoric fossil discoveries in a northwest valley river wash. Currently, there are efforts underway to protect the discoveries from encroaching development.
Geologist Kathleen Springer picks at the rocks of the Las Vegas Wash. The wash is filled with prehistoric fossils.
"It never ceases to amaze me how there's so many bones throughout this entire sequence all up and down this wash," Springer said. "If you go up and down this wash and you look at this map and you see how many thousands of acres, it's kind of shocking."
The fossils are within sight of homes, power lines and the Clark County Shooting Park.
"You've got bone there, and there, and there, and there," paleontologist Eric Scott points out. He discovered the bones of a saber-toothed cat. It was the first discovery of its kind in southern Nevada.
Thousands of years ago, the saber-toothed cat could take out the largest of prey with its foot-long fangs.
According to Scott, there was plenty of prey for the big cat. "A lot of horses out here. A lot of camels, a lot of bison."
While camels are usually associated with the Middle East or Africa, Scott said, they are actually native to North America.
Scientists believe there was a good supply of food and water.
"What I see are pools, sparkling pools of water. It's really a water story," Springer said. I look at these sediments and see a pool that this mammoth cruised around in and croaked."
For an area that's all about the distant past, there's a lot of talk about its near future. Tule Springs currently receives a patchwork of state and federal protection. Scientists hope to make Tule Springs into a national park which would make it more difficult for the fossils to be destroyed by off-road vehicles. It could also help create a place where people could learn about the next fossil discovery.
Some of the bones and Mammoth tusks are hidden underneath tarps for protection. Scientists hope they can pull the covers off soon and share Las Vegas' prehistoric discoveries with the world.
NV Energy had plans to build a major transmission line through Tule Springs. Conservationists say they've reached an agreement with the utility company to reduce any impact of future development near Tule Springs.
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