hero media helmsley

Helmsley Charitable Trust Grants $3.5M for Completion of Ice Age Fossils State Park

LAS VEGAS, April 12, 2023 — The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has granted $3.5 million to the state of Nevada for the completion of outdoor amenities at Ice Age Fossils State Park, a 315-acre property rich in Pleistocene-era fossils located about 10 miles north of downtown Las Vegas. Once this important phase of the project is complete, the park will open to the public later this year.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust’s grant to the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Nevada Division of State Parks (NDSP) will fund construction of state-of-the-art outdoor facilities that will educate and engage visitors, provide recreational opportunities, and  interpret discoveries of fossils and artifacts throughout the park.

“A wide variety of prehistoric mammals once roamed this picturesque landscape,” said Walter Panzirer, a Helmsley Trustee. “The Helmsley Charitable Trust is excited to help open Ice Age Fossils State Park so Nevada residents and visitors can learn about the site’s exceptional scientific history while enjoying its miles of hiking trails.”

The Tule Springs Expedition of 1962-’63, conducted on this site and later known as “The Big Dig,” unearthed fossils from Columbian mammoths, camels, ground sloths, American lions, and dire wolves. It was the largest inter-disciplinary scientific expedition of its kind, and paleontological research within the park site continues.

The park’s visitor center will feature fossils and artifacts, interactive exhibits, a space for temporary displays, a giftshop, and a 10-minute film. Other amenities include a paved parking lot, trailhead restrooms, a water fill-up station, and a picnic pavilion.

“Nevada State Parks is incredibly grateful for the generosity and support of The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust,” said Nevada State Parks Administrator Bob Mergell. “Thanks to their partnership, Nevadans and visitors will soon have an exciting new way to immerse themselves in a prehistoric world rich with remnants from the Ice Age, including fossils of animals such as dire wolves, Columbian mammoths, and saber-toothed cats.”

The park’s 3.5-mile network of interconnected hiking trails will feature interpretive panels and shade structures. Those trails include:

  • The Big Dig Trail, a hike through trenches bulldozed by the Tule Springs Expedition and highlighting scientific discoveries.
  • The Las Vegas Wash Trail, exploring the natural forces that created and reshaped the landscape over the course of millennia.
  • The Megafauna Trail, showcasing life-size sculptures of the massive animals that once roamed Tule Springs.

Ice Age Fossils State Park will also provide a permanent home for the Monumental Mammoth, a life-size sculpture of a Columbian Mammoth assembled using materials recovered from clean-ups throughout the Tule Springs fossil beds. The sculpture, which was envisioned by 17-year-old Girl Scout Tahoe Mack, premiered at Burning Man in 2019.

The park property was initially acquired by the Nevada Division of State Parks in 1958 and officially proclaimed a state park in 2017 as part of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s “Explore Your Nevada” initiative.

Helmsley’s grant provides the final funding needed to open the park. Other financial backers include the State of Nevada, the Conserve Nevada Fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Recreational Trails Program and private donations. Project partners include the National Park Service, Protectors of Tule Springs, and the Ice Age Park Foundation.

Long-term plans for the park include paving and developing the Trench K Trailhead and developing an onsite paleontology laboratory and fossil repository facility.

Ice Age Fossils State Park is tentatively set to open in late 2023. Until then, the park will be under construction and remain closed to visitors.


Additional materials for media: https://helmsleytrust.box.com/s/a51axmzqx8stm1f8fxy7ssh1dahgdemv

About the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Nevada Division of State Parks (NDSP)

The Nevada Division of State Parks plans, develops, and maintains a system of parks and recreation areas for the use and enjoyment of millions of visitors a year. The division was established in 1963 by the Nevada Legislature to form a new state park agency within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The division manages and maintains 27 parks, historic sites and recreation areas in Nevada.



Dirk Lammers, (605) 254-3472, dirk@ceteraservices.com