The Great Ice Age (2.6 Million Years Ago-12,000 Years Ago)

Skeleton of the giant ground sloth Megalonyx in The Great Ice Age

The last great ice age in North America began some 2.6 million years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago. As glaciers advanced and retreated, they dramatically transformed the North Dakota landscape and forced plants and animals to adapt. The most impressive of the now-extinct animals of the ice age include mammoths, mastodons, ground sloths, and giant bison. A wall mural depicts the landscape and life here near the end of the ice age.

Video animation shows how these glacial advances affected the state’s geography. See and touch some of the boulders (glacial erratics) that glaciers transported here from Canada.

Fossils of animals and plants that existed in North Dakota near the end of the Ice Age are exhibited, including:

  • The skull of the giant bison Bison latifrons
  • A skeleton cast of a Bison latifrons being attacked by two saber-toothed cats Smilodon
  • A skeleton cast of the 8-foot tall ground sloth Megalonyx
  • Remains of woolly mammoth, frog, muskrat, insects, snails, clams, and plants

The skeleton of a Mammut americanum (Highgate Mastodon) is displayed in the hall to continue the story of life during the ice age into the Innovation Gallery: Early Peoples.