Tolo Lake – Columbian mammoths!

While I was to be based in White Bird for two days all of my road trips were north of there. With my early start I arrived in the area by mid-day Sunday so I had some time to start exploring.

Grangeville is a larger town, located 17 miles north of White Bird on (new) Highway 95. My first surprise when I drove up to Grangeville after I arrived in the area was a sign pointing west to Tolo Lake, about 5 miles away. It was at that lake where remains of Columbian mammoths were found when the lake was being worked on by volunteers for “fishing and wildlife improvements” in 1994. Experts were brought in and the lake was drained. Many skeletal remains were found and it is one of the largest Columbian mammoth “graveyards” to be discovered in the United States.

Male Columbian mammoths were about 14 feet tall and 17 feet long and were believed to have weighed about 10 tons. My first encounter with mammoth research was when I visited “The Mammoth Site” in South Dakota back in 2017.

Tolo Lake was later refilled with water and is now a “protected site” pending the receipt of more funds to continue the research. I drove out to the lake but there is nothing there to see except a few signs discussing the findings. There is a building behind the Grangeville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center downtown which houses a full-size replica of a Columbian mammoth skeleton:

(Photo credit:

I took some photos of my own but the display is surrounded by glass and it reflected the outdoor scenery behind me. Signage at the display suggested returning at night to get better photos when the display is lit up from inside the building but I try not to go out at night when I am traveling in areas with which I am not familiar.

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