Denver-area’s Lamb Spring archaeological dig hints at early North American humans

This month, officials with Colorado Economic Development Division will consider a proposal to fund Lamb Spring as a Regional Tourist Project, turning one of the most promising digs in North America into a “living museum” where patrons can watch archaeologists and paleontologists wield brushes on mammoth bones in the archaeological treasure trove.

The same application — titled “Colorado Sports and Prehistoric Park” — calls for a nearby 93-acre sports complex, an assortment of fields, gyms, hotels, spas and restaurants that would draw athletic competitors from the region, and the nation, for tournaments and games. It is competing for funding with several other proposals across the state, including a riverwalk in Pueblo, an adventure park in Estes Park and an entertainment complex in Glendale.

If approved, the park will live in the midst of a massive development called Sterling Ranch, a proposed 3,400-acre, 12,000-home mixed-use development in the Chatfield Basin, with Roxborough Park to the southwest and Chatfield Reservoir to the north.

For many proponents of the development, the model is The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, S.D. The museum encases an ongoing mammoth dig, and visitors — more than 100,000 of them a year — observe scientists at work while learning about the area’s Ice Age history through tours and museum installments. That museum draws people from around the world, but it is remote. The town’s population? About 4,000.

Nearly 3 million people call the Denver metropolitan area home.

County officials want the project, in part, because they believe it will draw tourists and their dollars. Archaeologists pull for Lamb Spring because of its scientific importance .

“There is evidence to suggest it may be one of the oldest sites in America,” said James Dixon, an anthropology professor at the University of New Mexico. “I imagine there is a rich and long history there that has yet to be understood.”