Stegomastodon Fossil: A Major Discovery at Elephant Butte Lake

Whether you’re highly adventurous or a newbie, chances are good you’ve done it at Elephant Butte Lake State Park – by “it” we mean you’ve gotten your vehicle stuck in the sand and had to dig yourself out, or get someone to help you dig out.

It’s almost a rite of passage for newcomers to the area – drive to the lake, find you can easily take a cruise on the sand, and the next thing you know, you’re buried up to your wheel-wells.

For a group of good samaritans who were visiting the lake in June 2014 for a bachelor party, assisting a driver who’d gotten stuck led to an amazing discovery – the fossilized skull and tusks of a three million year-old Stegomastodon.

According to Antonio Gradillas, a member of the bachelor party: “As we are cruising by we see a large tusk, or what seemed to be the tusk, hanging out of the ground, about a good three to four inches out.” [source: KRQE News]

Can you believe it? This Stegomastadon fossil was right there, buried in the sand at the beach, all this time. Talk about putting the “elephant” in Elephant Butte.

(The name “Elephant Butte” is not derived from past animal inhabitants. Elephant Butte is named for the Butte itself, near Marina del Sur, which happens to resemble an elephant.)

Here’s a fully assembled skeleton of a stegomastodon at the Smithsonian: 

stegomastodon skeleton at the Geronimo Springs Museum

Also – this is not the first Stego skull found in Sierra County – another is on display at the Geronimo Springs Museum.

stegomastodon skull at the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences

There’s a moral to this cool story: keep your eyes open! You never know what treasure or artifact could be lying nearby, just waiting for you to discover it.

5 thoughts on “Stegomastodon Fossil: A Major Discovery at Elephant Butte Lake”

    1. Sierra County Recreation & Tourism

      Hi Tom, it’s at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque. Not sure if it’s on display however. Plan to call when they open on Wednesday and inquire.

    2. Sierra County Recreation & Tourism

      Tom, finally we are back with more info — sorry for the delay. The fossil is on display during regular museum hours (Wednesday through Sunday 10am-4pm) in the public lab’s “Fossilworks” area. The website says Fossilworks is closed but that’s old info. We were assured over the phone that visitors can view it any time.

  1. Hi, have more parts of the stegomastodon been found, or any other fossil finds since the fall of the water level?

    1. Sierra County Recreation & Tourism

      Viola, we believe they took the entirety of the fossil to the Natural History museum in Albuquerque. No others have been found at the lake since then that we know of.

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