Historical Reverence at Big Bone Lick

by Pat Moynahan on November 3, 2015

Pat Fox, President of Friends of Big Bone

Pat Fox, President of Friends of Big Bone

FLORENCE – Is Big Bone Lick a local recreational park or hallowed scientific ground?

Depends upon whom you ask, actually. But the truth is, it’s really both.

“We (Northern Kentuckians) see it as a great recreational park and it is that, but it’s so much more,” said Pat Fox, president of Friends of Big Bone. Watching a group of 25 scientists tour what they call the “birthplace of vertebrate paleontology” in Boone County, she said, “I was wowed by their reverence for the site.”

Dr. Glen Storrs, Associate Vice President for collections and research at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Dr. Glen Storrs, Associate Vice President for collections and research at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Fox and Dr. Glen Storrs, associate vice president for collections and research at the Cincinnati Museum Center, spoke to the Florence Rotary Club on Monday, October 26, about the history of Big Bone Lick and recent improvements to the visitor center.

Aided by a $70,000 grant from the R.C. Durr Foundation, Friends of Big Bone and Cincinnati Museum Center are working together to support a three-phase revitalization of the visitor center. The first phase, completed in June, including a refurbishing of the exhibits and displays.

The second phase calls for the skeletal reconstruction of a giant ground sloth, one of the animals discovered in Ice Age sediment at Big Bone. The third phase will add 3-D presentations to the attractions, according to Fox.

“There’s been a lot of growth and interest in the park over the past 20 years,” she said. “The improvements are bringing a lot of people and new interest to the park.”

Renewed interest also is coming from the scientific community. DNA analysis and other scientific advancements have opened new avenues for exploring the Ice Age sediment and the large mammals drawn to the area by the salt licks around sulphur springs there, Storrs said.

“There are new things to be learned there about climate change and the region because of new technology,” he said.

“Scientists from all over the world have heard of this place and want to visit. Some of the new paradigms being studied and discussed originated at Big Bone.”

Scientists have been coming to the site for more than 275 years since the first huge mastodon bones were discovered in 1739. Among the places bones from the site are on display is Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Meriwether Lewis visited the site in 1803 and sent a box of fossils to Jefferson on his way west to Louisville to meet up with William Clark.

“I like to say the Lewis and Clark Expedition begins and ends at Big Bone Lick,” Storrs said.